the price of ambiance; the mission; + more

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Friday comes. I have become a person who snaps a picture of their commute, and then upload it with #tgif on Instagram. Alas. The Financial District has a nice aesthetic to it though, especially on foggy days. The steel and the blues of the building go well the greys of San Francisco.

Boyfriend and I had not done anything “fun” for a while, so he proposed we get dinner in the city. He met me after work, and I had looked up a couple of places of some hip-looking blogs. Combining that knowledge with the recommendation of certain hip friends, we decided upon Namu Gaji.

The restaurant describes itself on its website as:

A family run place. New Korean American (NKA) cuisine is humble, innovative and personal while keeping tradition close to heart. The menu is inspired by the weekly harvests from our farm and the finest local bounty.

Sounded good to me. I like humble. I like family-run. I like farm-to-table. So we went on a jaunt towards the Mission, the famed center of gentrification in San Francisco, ready to eat some homey Korean Food. We walked down the now extremely hip Valencia street, hungry and excited to eat. I wasn’t sure what I was imagining, but I was imagining a brightly lit, kimchi-fied diner of sorts. When we got the pin on Google Maps, we were a bit surprised. We walked in to a beautiful, dimly-lit wood-decorated space. The servers looked like the clients themselves– flannel, natural fabrics and generally very hip. We were ushered to sit at a wooden countertop table, and found ourselves being somewhat perplexed by the menu. Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese? A $23 stone-pot rice bowl? We decided to play it safe and ordered the 3.5 dollar (EACH) tacos, which were a special during Happy Hour.

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as the Boyfriend said, “Chicken Bits on Seaweed” — for $3.50 each
They brought out the stone-pot and told us to “let it sizzle so it’ll caramelize for 4 minutes.” Why couldn’t they have brought it out 4 minutes later?

For reasons I don’t understand, they were served in paper boats, perhaps to enhance the “street food” aesthetic. Pictured above is $6 of chicken bits, rice, and seaweed. We looked at each other with bemused facial expressions, and that was pretty much our facial expression throughout the whole evening. We ended up ordering the chicken wings, which were just as absurd as stated on the menu (and a ridiculously small portion for the price). Not sure where blue cheese comes in with “traditional” Korean cooking. They were pretty strange, in their plating and taste. We finished up with stone pot, which was straight forward and delicious, and pretty much the only reasonable thing we ordered (the price was not reasonable though).

The whole time, the Boyfriend and I exchanged glances at each other confused and amused by the whole ordeal. Our waiter was extremely friendly and the staff was lovely and personable, but surely they knew how overpriced the food was? Or maybe they believe in it– maybe they believe in their mason jars, their paper “street food” boats that come at luxury prices, maybe they believe that Namu Gaji serves “humble food that keeps tradition close to heart.” It was all very absurd, and we hastily exiting after paying a small fortune ($58 dollars for two seaweed “tacos”, 1 order of chicken wings, 1 stone pot).

As we were exiting the Namu Gaji, it was full with guests and people without reservations were being told that the wait was over an hour. The Boyfriend and I were utterly perplexed. What could it be that makes this place so popular? Perhaps we had ordered the worst dishes they had, but it was all just so expensive and… so not worth it.

This is the price of ambiance; I decided. When we forked over our cash for a little over 500 Kilocalories worth of food, we were paying for the smile of the friendly waiter, for the wood-polished tables, the mood lighting, the trendiness of the clientele– everything but the food.

Namu Gaji was an interesting experience to me, because it gave me a sense of closure of sorts. I’m not going to lie, if I were in high school, I would have loved it. I would have come back again and gone with my mother. In high school, I loved the idea of Bottega Louie, and my to-go Italian place was the ever-sexy, always loud Mi Piace. But eating in Namu Gaji, a restaurant with an aesthetic I eagerly craved in my Los Angeles suburban days, I think I’ve out grown my desire for the sexy city glamor. I don’t care whether you serve food in Mason Jars or your food or whether yelp describes your restaurant as having a “beautiful interior.” Your food better taste good (and it should be cheap too).

I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t trust the yelp reviews, don’t trust the hype. Imma stick to food that I know to be “humble”.

So on Saturday night, we were too lazy to cook so we went to a local Berkeley favorite, Lotus House.

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Lotus House does not have mood lighting. Your order and pick up your food at the counter. I’m pretty sure their milk tea is made from a powder.

But Lotus House is deliciously laden with so much MSG, so much oil, and it’s so so good. You could feed a whole minivan with $58 here. (Shout to House Special Chow Fun, BBQ Pork and Tofu over rice, Passion Fruit Milk Tea and Popcorn Chicken). $22 well-spent dollars later, I hobbled home because I was stuffed to the brim and it was hard to walk. But it was so worth it.

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questionable taste

So I have a job. This job pays real ca$h money, so I decided I should buy all those things I said I would if I had money (only for a little bit, and the rest is gonna go to $avings).

For the longest time I wanted a “super kawaii” phone case. It came in the mail today and I found myself being awash with various feelings as I held the springy silicone whipped cream marvel.

I love it– the pink bow, the mini donut, the ice cream. The case looks so cute and so yummy and so utterly juvenile. Why am I attracted to this aesthetic ?

I have no clue. In some ways, decoden is a gross expression of capitalist and consumer culture. In addition to purchasing a pricey mobile phone, I’m also decorating it with signs of wealth/opulence/consumerism (i.e. frilly bows and desserts).

Or maybe I just really like pink and bows are cute and I love sweets and it has nothing to do with capitalism at all and I’m just a brainwashed UC Berkeley activist-yuppie who think she’s being controlled by capitalism/white supremacy/patriarchy.

Either way, I’ll update y’all on what it’s like having a phone that you cannot lay flat on its back[1].

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acv/baking soda + updates

Brunch at Cloyne Court on 9/20 — Pea Salad, Home Fries, Strawberries + Cream Crepe, Brown Sugar Bars, Breakfast Pizza

One of the highlights of living in any house within the Berkeley Student Cooperative is that you get meals cooked for you. Most nights you get dinner, but Saturday has brunch– see above.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the really trendy thing right now, i.e. the role of Tech in San Francisco Gentrification. I just read this really insightful article on the labor models that these companies take.

No cohesive thoughts yet, but some ideas:

  • what sort of benefits, visible, invisible, social and tangible, do the young + wealthy + educated receive from living in the Bay Area?
  • what does this highly educated population give back to the Bay Area?
  • are you entitled to give back to the community?
  • why do we blame the techies? what about #capitalism as a structure?
  • as a young college student interning at a start-up, what role do I play in all of this?

On another wholly unrelated note, I have now decided to ditch shampoo & conditioner completely. I am doing that whole baking soda + acv thing because I live in a co-op and I’m a dirty hipster.

Some people swear by this method, other’s say it ruined their hair forever.

I will update everyone on it goes. I also have two midterms (Algebraic Topology and Complex Analysis) on Monday, so I better get studying eeeep.

waffling around

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As you can see from this picture above, I lied about eating more healthily. Actually, maybe I didn’t. It’s healthier to cook at home versus going out to eat, so I’ve succeeded in that sense.

Anyway, the Boyfriend cooked up a large batch of my favorite fried chicken for dinner for Davis on Thursday night. He didn’t cook it all though since only about 10-15 people show up for dinner, so there was still some raw chicken with marinade leftover.

Come Friday morning. I realize that Davis has a waffle press, but I have never used it. (In fact, I have never used a waffle press to actually cook a waffle). With great elation and joy, we had a totally indulgent brunch of fried chicken and waffles (okay, so maybe I totally have failed at this “healthy thing”).

He took a nibble out of his waffle already...
He took a nibble out of his waffle already…

He fried the chicken, I made the waffles. Since I’ve never actually made waffles before, I googled “simple waffle recipe” and found this gem. With almost 2000 reviews and a 4.5 star rating, I figured it would be good. The waffles turned out perfectly. Not too salty, not too sweet, but I recommend changing those measurements around depending on what you’re eating it with. When I made the waffles for the fried chicken, I cut back slightly on the sugar to make a more savory waffle. When I made waffles this morning for breakfast (the recipe was so good I wanted to try it again) I used the recommended amount of sugar and had waffles with strawberries, whipped cream cheese and syrup.

Yeah, I really fail at this healthy thing. Whatever #yolo

Perfect Waffles

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of butter (melted, shouldn’t be too hot)
  • 1 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (add more for a sweeter waffle)
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (add more for a more savory waffle)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Heat up waffle iron.
  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl until very fluffy.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl until just mixed.
  4. Grease the surface of the waffle iron, whatever this means to you. Could be spraying a non-stick cooking spray, or you could apply butter on the surfaces of the pan.
  5. Pour around 1/2 – 3/4 cup of batter into the iron and close it. The waffles will poof up quite a bit. Cook until golden brown. Serve immediately.*

*If you’re making a bunch at once and can’t serve them right as they’re being made, place the waffles onto folded paper towels. Replace the paper towels often as they will absorb quite a bit of moisture and make the waffle less crisp.

trying to do that “healthy” thing

healthy person dinner that has more vegetables than I’m comfortable with.

I’m always incredibly conflicted about what sort of lifestyle I should lead. It changes from week to week, but sometimes I might revert back to a “lifestyle” I’ve already tried. Let’s be a hermit and talk to no one! Let’s be a party girl. Let’s eat nothing but deep-fried foods! Let’s do that healthy thing!

As you can probably tell, I’m pretty bad at sticking to one thing (the only thing that I’ve stuck to is purchasing only “ethical” clothing items– i.e. no child/slave labor, everyone’s getting a fair wage, etc.)

But one lifestyle (I hate using this word, I sound like a health magazine or something) that I keep coming back to is “the healthy one.” Whether it’s because I live in a cooperative that purchases only organic produce or because I live in the Bay Area where everyone is all about that all-natural artisanal this-that, I have no clue.

So right now we are in healthy mode (which means boring recipes and no fun and no parties) and so I went to Yoga to the People for their 6 o’clock class yesterday. It was in their beautiful new studio. We can discuss the appropriation of yoga later ahahhaa.  Post-yoga, I whipped up a “very reasonable dinner”. Sorry there are no precise measurements for this “recipe” (if you can call me mixing food in a bowl a recipe), but you should adjust the quantities of things to your preference.

 “Very Reasonable Dinner” (yellow/green edition)

Ingredients:

  • Cooked Black Beans or frijoles negro
  • Cooked Brown Rice
  • Baby Kale leaves
  • Avocado
  • Yellow Bell Pepper
  • Brown Mushrooms
  • Egg
  • Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • Butter

Start cooking the egg, I recommend sunny-side up. While that’s happening, shred the cheese and heat up the brown rice with the shredded cheese. Place the warm brown rice and cheese into a large bowl, top with the cooked egg. Using the same pan that you cooked the egg in, saute mushrooms and sliced bell pepper with just a little bit of butter. Cook until bell peppers just start to brown. Place sliced avocado, baby kale leaves and cooked vegetables into the bowl with the brown rice and egg. Serve immediately.