Friday, June 17, 2011

Siam Orchid @ Palo Alto, CA

Siam Orchid
Palo Alto, CA

I am a two time offender.

When in season, they offer fresh young coconut juice as a beverage. The offering comes with a spoon which you can use to dig out the coconut meat.

The appetizers behind are a variety of spring rolls and yam+veggie samosas - I've had a bevy of their appetizers by now and have yet to encounter one I didn't like!

An unusual marinated shrimp roll wrapped in cheese and wonton wrapper an rice noodle before being lightly fried. They are presented on a bed of lettuce and onion curls in a martini glass. The second time I ate here, I ordered one all for myself.

Shrimp, peanuts, and various other fixings in a lettuce leaf with some of their special sweet/sour sauce. One delicious mouthful.

Finally, the entree! By this point though I was already so full I only finished half the salmon.

But that still didn't keep me from trying their dessert. It was delicious enough for me to brave the over-full feeling from eating 2 of these by myself.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cafe Campagne @ Seattle, WA

Between allowing this poor effort to languish and my experiments with Zapd, I'm going to try a different format more in keeping with my current eating habits: the short and sweet.

Cafe Campagne
Seattle, WA

I am a frequent offender.

Watch the prices, bill can rack up if you're not watching it. Avoid the bottled sparkling water - steep tag!

Carrot soup with seasoned cumin, a little shallot, and butter to smooth it out. I've hated carrots in all forms up until Cafe Campagne.

Gravlox tartine. Pretty self explanatory and pretty to boot! Can never get enough of quality cold-smoked salmon.

Today's quiche du jour is a shallot and gruyere cheese. I rarely care what the filling is, I always order a slice. I've never had quiche like this anywhere before, where the filling is light and fluffy like steamed eggs.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The (Lido Galilee) Pagoda @ Tiberias, Israel

Serves: Lunch, Dinner
Cost: ???
Experience: ^_^
Decor: Casual dining

So, my first posting to this in a while, and it's for a place halfway around the world. However, them's the breaks. I was also far too tickled by the thought that I spent a full day traveling to Israel and end up at a Chinese restaurant.

However, as the experience rating reveals, this will not be a harangue of the metaphorical slaughtering of my people's ethnic food in other nations' hands. The Pagoda is a kosher Chinese, Thai, and Japanese sushi restaurant which our driver had highly recommended as we toured northern Israel. While in general I tend to avoid eating Chinese outside of my mother's kitchen - not simply because I'm spoiled after being raised all my life on home-cooked Chinese, but quite honestly, because I feel that when I am out of my parents' house I should try the local ethnic cuisine - I would not deny others the pleasure of indulging. Thus, I put up no protest when we drove up to this delightfully touristy facade:

A kosher Chinese restaurant. Who would have thought? All these years, I had absolutely delighted in horrifying friends and acquaintances with tales of our being equal-opportunity eaters, and here was one that did not serve pork, was closed during Shabbath, etc.

But, anyway, on to the food! We started with some soups, but instead of the usual bowls, we were served the wonton and the hot and sour soup in these wonderful, personal hot-pot-like devices:

There is, no doubt, a technical term for them, but I can't for the life of me remember right now. Anyway, there are more important things to talk about, such as the flavor - these two dishes were the first sign that this meal was going to be something to talk about, and not because some foreigners had tried to imitate Chinese food as badly as how some of the road signs had been translated into English!

I thought the wonton skins were a little too thick - thick even for regular dumplings, I felt, much less the traditional thin-skinned wontons - but I could not fault the flavors (even if the filling was not made from pork - sigh). The sweet and sour was wonderful, even if it was not anything like any traditional sweet and sour soup I had ever had. Beyond the more usual chicken and mushrooms, it included bean sprouts, some minty-type greens (borrowed from Thai flavors, I suspect), and tomatoes. However, the chef did an excellent job in blending all these new flavors into the more familiar sweet-and-sour without overwhelming it - it still retained that pleasant, warming burn afterward with the tangy sharpness of vinegar and a hint of pepper. Beautifully done!

I had ordered the Thai fish in a red and coconut curry sauce as my main dish, while the others had picked out a pad thai and a cashew chicken with vegetables:

I thought this centerpiece was quite a cute and unexpectedly pretty conceit - I won't pretend that I know what it is for sure, but if that really is basil, I had no idea the flowers were so aesthetically pleasing.

I never made it to the cashew chicken, to be honest. I had been absolutely stuffed, between my entree and sneaking in a few mouthfuls of the pad thai. Once again, the taste did not disappoint - the flavors were well blended, and tasted authentic. Considering that most of the Chinese restaurants in southern California have Mexicans making the food these days, I certainly do not think that only Chinese or other Asians can manage to balance flavors in a traditional manner. But I am not ashamed to admit I was surprised by how well they have managed to make it taste as if I was back in California eating at one of my parents' favorites. (Well, for all I know, there really is an Asian working there as head chef, but everyone else I saw there were notably non-Asian, and I'm more than willing to give them credit.)

This last dish is the short ribs. The glaze on the two ribs which I stole looked and tasted beautiful. My only complaint would be that the portions were far too fatty and the meat slightly on the chewy side, even if they were soft enough to slice off with a dull knife (not to insult their silverware) - and on the subject of fat, I'm somewhat ambivalent. After all, some of the most famous Chinese dishes are based on literally marinating slices of pork fat for direct consumption, the fattier the better, and marbled fillets owe their extraordinary tenderness and flavor to the fat which gives them their pebbled appearance. But over the years, I've started liking my cuts of meat to be only moderately fatty, and couldn't stomach more than a few bites with a thin layer still clinging to the meat while discarding the remaining mouthfuls.

In terms of consistency of quality between all the dishes? Another big thumb's up. I can, without hesitation, give The Pagoda a resounding recommendation ... if you ever happen to be in the neighborhood, of course.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CinCin @ Vancouver, BC Canada
Serves: Dinner
Cost: $$$
Experience: ^_^
Decor: Comfortable to Fine dining

Pronounced "Chin-chin", this is one of four sister restaurants that I have had the pleasure of visiting, one after the other, over the two weeks I was in Canada; the others being Araxi, Blue Water Cafe, and West.

It is as elegantly beautiful as the others. In spite of this being touted as an "Italian" (though it turns out it is more of an Italian/Mediterranean) restaurant, after perusing the tasting menu, I gave in and decided to try out their 5-course meal. I had not wanted to become too bloated from a pasta-heavy menu, but between the smaller portions and the mix of non-pasta dishes, I hoped that it would not be terribly heavy.

The bread was warm - excellent. Usually my other pet peeve is if the butter is cold and hard, rather than easily spreadable, but they did not provide butter in this case. Instead, there was a small dish of olive oil and what turned out to be a mound of olives in its center. I usually detest olives, but not only am I willing to give anything another try, but I honestly didn't know what they were until after the first bite. It was a bit of a shock - I doubt I've suddenly begun to not-mind, much less love olives in other circumstances, but it turned out to be a surprisingly good combination to my tongue. I nearly polished off one of the little loaves dipping it solely in the mix.

The tastebuds were then prepped with something which, unfortunately, I am not absolutely certain what the contents were except that there was a mention of Japanese eggplant. It had been an unexpected addition, and thus, I had been unprepared to absorb its details (headhangs). Regardless, it was lovely; light, smooth, a perfect mouthful in both size and taste.

It set a great tone for the first course - their house-marinated swordfish. Other than cold-smoked salmon and the occassional herring appetizer, I have never tried any sort of cured fish. Before I had decided on the tasting menu over the prix fixe, I had been tempted to select the garlic soup over the fish, but now am I ecstatic I didn't - if anyone visits Cincin, the swordfish is a must order. Light, citrusy, with a touch of blood oranges to help take the edge off.

Next course was a mushroom ravioli in a gorgonzola cream sauce. I love mushroom ravioli. I love gorgonzola and cream. I was a little apprehensive, though, at the thought of what traditionally is a "heavy" item...but I was surprised at the lightness of the flavor and the food itself. The sauce was more of a light foam, the cream a hint of after-taste rather than a thick soup to flavor the ravioli. I'm a little disappointed that the mushroom filling did not make much of an impression on me, but in the end, I feel that it is better that it blended into the rest of the dish instead of simply over-powering everything else. The crushed nuts added a nice bit of texture - overall, a thumbs up, though thus far, I feel it the least interesting of the offerings.

The arctic char was beautifully prepared - the flesh moist and tender, while the skin had just the right hint of crispness without becoming tough. One thing I was afraid of with fish prepared this way was saltiness - I usually find these things over-salted to my taste. But it was light in this case - just enough to enhance flavor without being overwhelming. Paired along with the slick, chewy nostrano and the clam jus and chervil sauce - another winner.

The next course was "snuck" in by the chef - it was not included on the original menu I had been presented. A creamy polenta, veal cheek, and a mushroom I recognize more from Chinese cooking than Western: the King Oyster mushroom (which is one of my favorites). Oddly, the mushroom had more "body" to it than the veal; not just in texture (a good thing), but in taste too (not quite as good a thing, but nothing I'm crying over either). The veal was falling-apart tender (best preparation I've ever had) compared to the perfectly-cooked firmness of the mushroom, and this unevenness was only punctuated by the veal's relative blandness on the inside...not to say that it was plain. It had a beautifully flavored exterior, and if there had been more sauce or jus available, a little dipping would have made it perfect. I am rather glad that it leaned on this side though, rather than being over-intense...too much flavor often makes me feel too full, and in this case, I could mix the side flavors to help compensate and balance things out. If it had been too heavy on taste, there would have been nothing I could have done except borne it.

Second to last course was lamb prepared two ways; wood fire grilled lamb saddle and a confit shoulder braised in duck jus, on a bed of spinach with three chestnuts. Again, the tenderness was utterly amazing - the chef is absolutely incredible in preparing meats. However, this dish also had the biggest drawback of the meal - I felt the salt was a little too heavy this time. I've noticed that I tend to eat meals that go lighter on the salt now, so maybe I am sensitized more than the average American, but still, I usually prefer subtlety over punch. Between that and my rapidly filling stomach, I decided to forego the last three bites or so (though not without quite some reluctance).

Another mark of an excellent restaurant - as soon as I mentioned the issue of the salt, not only did the waiter ask for details and pass them on, but the restaurant director came by to get the information straight from the proverbial horse's mouth. They really care about the quality of the experience, and are always interested in fine-tuning things along the way. This chance to give feedback, and the sense that my suggestions are being taken seriously for consideration, more than makes up for any slight deviations from excellence any meal makes, which were very few and slight indeed for CinCin.

And the final course: a chocolate with hazelnut ganache succe, tiramisu, passionfruit mousse rolled in a cake layer...and what I think is a gooseberry (which was really fun to eat, because I have never had it but always looked longingly at in the Granville Market fruit displays). The tiramisu was utterly delightful, and who can say no to chocolate and hazelnut, particularly one that was made as dark and smooth as this? Even the passionfruit mousse, I went through the trouble of picking out of its cake layer (I'm not a big fan of cake textures) because it was so good. The gooseberry was a wonderful accent atop all these tastes - I think the next time, regardless of their cost, I really will have to buy a basket of them from the Granville Market.

I think my one biggest disappointment in this culinary adventure was that I didn't have a chance to eat wood-fired pizzas. They are one of my absolute favorites, but they are definitely filling, and I would rather try out all the other menu items first. Another time, perhaps. It will become a contest to see whether I am tempted away again by other entrees the next time I visit, rather than whether I will visit again.

Some closing remarks on the people - not only were they unfailingly holding up the reputation of their restaurant as elegant and professional, but they had exquisite memories. There were no less than three involved in my meal (beyond the kitchen which was preparing the meals themselves, of course), but each and every one remembered and passed the information around when I had half-jokingly mentioned that I was allergic to alcohol and caffeine put me to sleep (to the traditional question at the beginning of the meal of whether I would like anything to drink). Every time there was even a chance that a meal contained alcohol or caffeine in it (such as used in cooking or, as in the case of the desserts, contained in the coffee/chocolate), the restaurant director came around to warn me of what was in the dish and asked whether I would rather substitute something else.

What an absolutely wonderful experience - definitely one I would like to repeat, particularly with some friends towed along.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aubergine Grill @ Whistler, BC Canada
Serves: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Cost: $$$
Experience: :)
Decor: Comfortable to Fine dining

I have been a complete ski bum this year, and thus find myself still in Whistler 2 weeks later in the season than I thought I would be still indulging in the sport. The Aubergine Grille has received many awards and much attention which you may read all about on their own page - below, I am only going to speak of the dishes that I ordered.

I happened to visit them on the one night when they had a more bistro-type menu instead of one of their fancy dinner arrangements (I also missed their $35 prix fixe dinners - maybe I'll try to catch it tomorrow just before driving back to Vancouver), so the dishes may seem a bit more "ordinary". However, the flavors were solidly balanced and refreshingly subtle (particularly where the salad is concerned) for all that they were more commonly found items.

The dip is a black-bean hummus - the appearance sort of reminded me of black sesame products, with little flecks of black in a lighter background. Though usually I'm not a big fan of black beans, it blended well with the usual hummus taste.

Butter lettuce, a block of goat cheese, organic beets, and roasted shallot vinaigrette. Again, I'm not usually a big fan of beets (at least, in large quantities), but all the flavors on the plate balanced perfectly against each other - a few folds of lettuce, half a wedge of beet stacked atop, with a smear of goat cheese and vinaigrette...utterly delightful. I polished off the whole plate, carefully divvying up the portions so that even the last bite would not lack any particular component.

I love risotto, but find it a little peculiar that it is often offered as a main course all on its own, rather than paired up as a side to some other item, or being paired up with sides in turn. Even for a vegetarian, I think it contains too little variety just by itself to justify a whole dinner based on it alone. Thus, I paired this up with another appetizer which I had been hankering after - the mussels.

The risotto had cubes of squash and whole hazelnuts sprinkled in it. The hazelnuts added a nice scent to some of the bites, but unfortunately, they were quick to grow soft in the heat and dampness when I did not eat them fast enough. The squash added a touch of sweetness, and even when I lumped them into a large spoon-full, did not overpower the taste of the risotto. The risotto's texture was perfect for my mood - just enough body to let me chew on it a bit, while being an over-all cooked-through soft; and thick with sauce that was neither runny or too dry.

The picture of the mussels suffered the most. Between the laptop, camera, phone, various table decorations and 4 large plates; I did not have much room by this point to rearrange settings. (Besides which, I had little patience left to let the food remain sitting there without taste-testing!)

This was the least-surprising dish of all in terms of flavors, but again, they were beautifully prepared. Tender, plump, and juicy; with just a hint of their seafood flavor without being too fishy.

While there may be other restaurants in Whistler which I may prefer to revisit first for the novelty of their dishes and/or ingredients (most notably, Araxi), Aubergine Grill is also solidly on the list of locations which I would be happy to revisit.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Mint @ Raleigh, NC
Serves: Lunch & Dinner
Cost: $$$
Experience: ^_^
Decor: Fine dining
complete gallery of pictures for The Mint

The Mint was a happy convergence of circumstances when I was visiting my brother in Raleigh, NC over Labor Day weekend. Having been blindsided by some last minute work, I had not had time to set up an itinerary of local activities before the long weekend was already upon us; and so, upon his apartment-mate's suggestion, we went looking for Fayetteville Street for rumored shopping and restaurants.

In order to locate the street, I had googled for a restaurant on Fayetteville while we were en route from Cary, and one of the first links was The Mint. At the time, I had paid little attention to it beyond grabbing its address to map on the iPhone, but once we were there, it boasted one of the few facades besides bank lobbies to leap out and grab my attention. Tantalized by the menu they had posted outside, we decided that we would wile away a few hours elsewhere before returning at 5:30pm for their dinner hours.

We actually returned at 5:10, and in spite of it being before official opening hour and our bedraggled street clothes (my brother and I were both in denim shorts, I in a tank top and flip flops and he in a worn t-shirt and sandals), they greeted us with smiles and impeccable welcome. They offered us the lounge and bar upstairs until they were ready to serve dinner, and I happily took advantage of the opportunity to explore a space that had been prepared in every detail for the evening's customers (but without the customers, yet):

The entrance after the entrance. My brother and I had peered curiously behind the safe door - it's genuine!

The bar upstairs had a beautifully designed lounge area that made me sorry that I don't even drink recreationally. The source of the rich colors at the top come from what looks like banks of red and green LEDs - quite an innovative design.

We eventually wandered back down to the lobby once 5:30 was upon us, and we were immediately seated. Our waiter for the evening, Geoffrey, promptly started us off with the menus and the usual slew of questions on our choice of beverages. Having been walking around in ninety degree weather for the last three hours, it was a welcome break, and the evening only got better from there.

I am an adventurous omnivore, and Geoffrey was an unrepentant accomplice. In promising venues, I like to get as much input from the waitstaff and kitchen as possible (they are a very valuable resource - never forget to take full advantage of them!), and Geoffrey had been more than happy to accommodate with not only input as to his own experiences with the food, but also anecdotes on past menus. (It was unfortunate that my brother and I had eaten a late lunch not too long ago, otherwise I would have taken him up on his suggestion of the tasting menu.) I like to hear and see that the chef is willing to experiment - in ingredients, in preparation, and/or presentation - and from reports thus far, Chef Jeremy Clayman was one of those.

The regular appetizer of poached lobster with popcorn, miso caramel and peanut butter raised my eyebrows. (Geoffrey explained, what goes more naturally with butter than lobster and popcorn?) The stories of some past seasonal ingredients raised them further, such as fiddlehead ferns and kangaroo. (I think it was kangaroo. It was something outrageous which made me wish I had been in the area at the time to try it.) Most of the other menu item descriptions seemed more run-of-the-mill (Geoffrey mentioned that some of their more adventurous creations had not found enough willing palates to remain regular items) but from the restaurant decor to the knowledgeableness of the staff, I was confident enough that we would get a show regardless of what was ordered to select generously from the available dishes.

Our palates were prepped first with this little morsel. I do not recall all the items on it anymore, but I believe pineapple, a shaving of apple, and steelhead roe (fish eggs) were involved.

The appetizers and soup we had ordered - the poached lobster, the foie gras, and the lobster bisque - were carried to us by a procession of no less than three of the waitstaff. It made me sorry that I had been fiddling with the iPhone at the time (getting this specific blog set up, actually) and wasn't able to capture the impressive display of coordination and pomp on camera. I was, at least, fast enough to capture a single snapshot of how our bisque was served to us - from a teapot!

The bisque was quite, quite good - just the right amount of richnesses to make it a proper bisque without it becoming cloying. I let my brother finish most of this one off, though - I was not only interested in more irregular dishes but I did not want to become full too quickly.

As one can see, there is no actual visible popcorn in the poached lobster appetizer. I was told that it was all pureed - and while I might not have caught on as to what exactly that secret ingredient was if I had done a blind taste-test (due to incredulousness), there was a most definite popcorn scent to every bite. Most importantly, it was not intrusive - it was enough of a hint to make me laugh and to excite fond memories of home moviewatching without overpowering the elegance of the dish.

The chef's presentation style continued to impress. While the foie gras I found a little too salty for my tastes (rather than eat it alone as I tend to do in order to savor its richness, I suspect it would have been better if I had taken it with the pain perdu, which was excellent - and thus, the unfortunate first victim of my appetite), the accompanying flavors available upon the plate - from the huckleberry sauce to the bread - were enough for me to make specific comments to Geoffrey the next time he had swung by our table.

For entrees, my brother ordered an off-the-menu special of wagyu, which will hopefully become a regular menu item in the future. (The beef had elecited quite a bit of discussion between myself and Geoffrey - I had never heard of it before - and eventually a visit from the chef himself. Jeremy Clayman was as friendly and approachable as everyone else who staffed the restaurant, and I saw him circulating amongst the other occupied tables to chat with customers after speaking with me. Unfortunately, having been too distracted by his food at the time, I did not ask him about the wagyu which had actually instigated Geoffrey's suggestion that I ask the chef directly. They had me covered though - Geoffrey later came back with a full report on the subject from Jeremy.)

By the way, the meat itself? Incredible. Knife unnecessary. The flavor was rich, without being overly salty or overpowering in taste. (Actually, the taste contained hints that reminded me a little of some Chinese dishes that I am particularly fond of - ones my mother makes for special occasions; definitely not a bad association!) It was originally conceived as an appetizer, but they made it into an entree with a double portion; for which I was glad, because then I was able to steal more than one bite from my brother without feeling too guilty.

As for my own entree, I suggested that the kitchen decide whether I should have the salmon or the trout. I was already feeling full by this point and was interested in something light, and unfortunately, only felt I had enough room for a few bites of the salmon that was suggested before I let my brother finish the rest. After the wagyu, the salmon seemed a little lacking in its own particular stand-out qualities (especially when I was already becoming disinterested in more food), but on its own, it probably would have been quite good. (I think I would have preferred it to be a bit more moist - but on the subject of fish, I am making allowances that I am an avid sushi lover and prefer everything a little more on the moist side, while I have many friends who like their seafood on the done side, rather than be subjected to the fishy melange of the ocean.)

And what meal is complete without a dessert course? Or two. I admit that I am one of those people who can say I am completely stuffed and refuse to take even one more bite of dinner, but always have a little crack left to fit a few bites of dessert (the sweetness helps it down, I swear). Geoffrey swore up and down on the peaches & cream, so of course we ordered one of that. Since I would most likely not be returning to the Raleigh area for at least a year, I decided to be a hedonist and also ordered the espresso cream custard.

Utterly delightful, the both of them. In spite of my fullness, I raced my brother to ensure my full share of both desserts. The peaches & cream were a wonderful contrast of taste and textures; of gentle sweetness with a titillating hint of tanginess, and a creamy texture accented by the entertaining crunch of granola. The espresso cream custard was a perfect cap to the dinner - served in a large cup (a rather fun visual trope as follow-up to the teapot bisque that began the dinner), it had just enough coffee-and-chocolate taste to feel as if I truly have concluded the evening without making me feel like I had grossly over-indulged, or too caffeinated to truly appreciate the post-dinner lethargy. I absolutely loved the crunch of the bean bits sprinkled on top, and finished even the whipped cream (which I usually eschew due to heaviness of flavor, but which was satisfyingly light here).

All in all, I would count The Mint one of the great assets of Raleigh. I cannot say that I have spent as thorough an exploration of the city's local offerings as in other areas of the country, but I had made two week-long visits previously without encountering anything that even approached this level of presentation and experience. The final bill was high (considering all that we ate and what we ate), but I did not find it any higher than I would have expected from any other restaurant of this calibre. In conclusion, this is now one of the locations that I have on my list of "must-return-to" when visiting Raleigh.

(A very big thank you to Geoffrey, who helped coordinate a wonderful experience.)

complete gallery of pictures for The Mint

Sunday, August 31, 2008

dragon whiskers

There is a traditional Chinese confection called Dragon Whiskers or Dragon Beard Candy. It is made of caramelized sugar or corn syrup that is drawn out, folded over, again and again - much like hand-made noodles - while in a bowl of flour to prevent entanglement. The sugar is stretched until it resembles fine thread - a carded mass of powdered floss - and then broken into stretches of about 5 inches. These are then wrapped around a loose filling of chopped peanuts, coconut, sprinklings of white or brown sugar, or any other flavor of the day the maker wishes to indulge.

Over twenty years ago, I remember running to my mother for money and then over to a tiny, open stand over which hunched an old, wizened man. His eyes were nearly hidden in folds of loose skin and his knuckles were swollen and knobbly, but his hands were deft and careless in their mastery. In the time it took me to check that the stand was there and to run to my mother and then back, he would have a fresh box made and sealed, red print dragons wrapped around its corners and silently snarling the contents in square characters down the lid's center.

I would hand him the money, and he would give me a gap-toothed grin with a little nod and a wheezing chuckle. I would reach carefully for the top of the pristine white boxes stacked like bricks, and before I had even turned to search for my mother again, the shallow box would be open...six pillowy white bundles, like sleeping caterpillers in their silk cocoons; filling the small space perfectly. (Not long after, down to five - then, too soon, none).

The stand is long gone, and even the Chinese market it had stood before is no more. I half-heartedly searched for the confection in the last decade while I was in San Francisco, and told my mother who lived near such Asian centers as Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Rowland Heights; to keep an eye and ear out for it. One time I found a website offering it for online orders - the only one I could find (at least, that I could read, being functionally illiterate in Chinese). But the candy should be eaten fresh, the sugars tending to harden and congeal within even a small handful of hours of its making; I didn't want to risk spending premium money for a high potential of disappointment. I thought that it would forever remain just one of those nostalgic moments of childhood that will never be repeated except in memory.

Today, while I was visiting my brother for the week in North Carolina, he took me to the only Asian market in the immediate area. It was filled with the reassuring sing-song dialects of Chinese, the shelves stocked with familiar clutter and ingredients. For a moment, I forgot that I was not back in California, shopping in one of the plentiful Chinese market chains that dot its coast.

And then we turned a corner, nearly walked into a post, and in dodging around it, almost walked into an isolated table tucked between canned goods and dried foodstuffs. A thin man stood behind it; hair still lack, but liver spots dotting his hands. His fingers combed rhythmically through a shallow tray of flour, spider-silk strands multiplying with each pass, a smile on his weathered face as he nodded to us.

The boxes were different, but twenty years later and the width of a continent away, the Dragon Beard Candy was still just as delicately sweet as memory. So if you ever find yourself in Cary, North Carolina, and have some time to visit a market, drop by the Grand Asian Market - and don't forget to tip the confectioner for his hard work.

(This also marks my first post composed on a mobile device - which had been a pain where proofreading and typing is concerned, but nothing beats the instant gratification when the writing bug hits! Unfortunately, the iPhone mail interface has no method of adding a picture after beginning an e-mail, so I'll have to add that manually later.)

Sent from my iPhone