Sunset

Yosemite: I Fell into a Burning Ring of Fire …

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Despite the East Bay Bridge closure, Rim Fire and several other twists and turns — it took more than nine hours to get to there from SF — this was a most excellent journey. A whole week spent on the most amazing little 51-mile loop in Yosemite National Park. I can’t wait to go back!

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McD’s Abroad

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A far more diverse menu than we have here in SF!

I was recently in Germany and Switzerland. And, while I usually make it a rule to never eat American fast food while abroad, this MacDonald’s in Wurzburg, Germany, was the only late-night place open that had Wi-Fi.

Please note the global offerings on the menu. For one thing, I was surprised the menu was written in English. Germans, unlike other Northern Europeans, do not have a particular penchant for using the English language. (Alas for the English-speaking traveler, they dubb all their American TV shows.) But then we get to the “Wan Tan’s” … Where the author of said menu took a notable stylistic departure.

Is “wan tan” how one says “won ton” in German? Is this preferable to “potsticker” or “dumpling,” which is the German word they chose for the caption? Does anyone really care? Most likely not. But thought I would ruminate nonetheless. Hey, this is my blog!

Literal translation: “Dumplings filled with chicken meat, coconut milk with Asian BBQ sauce.” So we’re dealing with a real cultural hybrid any way you’re looking at it. And, for one final tangential note, I love German enthusiasm for capitalization. All nouns — not just proper ones — deserve their day in the sun!

Teigtaschen gefüllt mit Hähnchenfleisch, Kokosmilch mit Asia BBQ Sauce.

Teigtaschen gefüllt mit Hähnchenfleisch, Kokosmilch mit Asia BBQ Sauce.

In the Garden: Memories of manta rays

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Free leftover tins from Bora Bora become planters. A nice memory, long after the cookies and the tan have been gone!

In September 2010, I was lucky enough to visit French Polynesia. I stayed on the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. The fanciful cuisine of the former — particularly the long-standing food truck tradition — was certainly a favorite memory. But it was only off the shores of Bora Bora that I got to scuba dive. And I do love nothing more than being underwater. Whilst immersed in the almost too perfect turquoise seas, I swam with pregnant manta rays and big fat lemon sharks. Gifts from the gods, to be sure.

I hadn’t completely forgotten about the dives, but almost two years later, they were far from my mind. And then, about a month ago, I got a message from an old dive buddy — a Frenchman who lives near Avignon.

“I was watching a documentary about mantas in French Polynesia and I saw you,” he wrote. “Did you see this documentary? I can try to capture few pictures for you if you want.”

And then it all came back.

A screen shot of me after the dive, from "Les reines du lagon."

It so happens that a French film crew was on my dive boat that September, and they were making a documentary about the manta rays in the motu. They filmed the briefing, the dive and then interviewed me afterward. Miracle of miracles, I made the final cut.

The film, “Les reines du lagon” (The queens of the lagoon”) is by Dominique Martial. Mon ami francais sent me a screen shot and some video clips. Apparently, I sound way more sophisticated in French! The parts I saw were magical. Hope I get to see the whole documentary one day.

I had saved some cookie tins from the resort in Bora Bora where we stayed while diving. They were the tastiest tropical butter cookies I’ve ever had! I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the tins, filled them with soil and then planted a trio of succulents in each.

Now, whenever i water them, I will be thinking of Bora Bora and my magical moment with mantas, en francais!

It’s a Sign: Stay on the path

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Spent five days at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat, an ashram in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. It was serene, beautiful and challenging. Along with eating vegetarian food, meditating and practicing yoga, I took daily walks into the woods.

I loved the signage marking the trails. There was the red path, which led to blustery Rollins Peak, a steep outcrop that overlooked its namesake town. From the top you could curl up between rocks and gaze out over the distant snowcapped mountain range. And there was the blue path: A milder hike with a lower grade, the trail opened to a vista of a tree-filled valley. Painted rocks and cairns decorated this small shelf, where a rock wall sheltered you from the wind but not the warming rays of the Colorado sun.

There was no wrong route to take. The only thing that mattered is that you followed the signs and stayed on the path. I think that makes for some fine advice in life, as well as in hiking.


By the strength of my own arms

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In this day of crowded flights and eternal commutes, it is refreshing to get somewhere by the mere strength of your limbs. Canoeing eight miles out to the barrier islands off the Florida Everglades felt like exploring another world. I couldn’t help but be amazed and inspired by the fact that we managed to get four people, three days worth of food and water, and enough gear to provide clothing and shelter for us all out to these uninhabited islands without so much as a drop of gasoline.

As we paddled through increasingly choppy waves the last hour of our first day, I suddenly felt a new awe for those explorers who—before sailboats, steamships, compasses or even GPS—loaded up friends, family and supplies onto outriggers and canoes and headed deep into the wide unknown sea to find new places. They must have been incredibly brave. They also probably had amazing abs. 😉

Korean American Hapa foodie, I die!

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The Kim Family on their annual seaside vacation somewhere beyond Seoul, circa 1960s. My mom is the one in the funky cat-eye shades!

Props to KoreAm magazine’s recent article on “The Kimchee Chronicles,” a show on the wonders of Korean cuisine hosted by Hapa Korean American adoptee Marja Vongerichten. Not only is Marja a stunning former model and actress, but she happens to be married to the famed Jean-Georges, global chef extraordinaire. But what really gets my wheels turning is her apparent love for Korean food — the connection it brings to her culture of origin and her desire to share this love with the world.

Marja and I are the same age, which I like to think means something … Even though our experiences are worlds apart: I grew up with my Korean family in close connection and in Florida to boot. But I did spend several years in New York City, and I do know what it’s like to never have relations with part of your family until adulthood.

The show airs on PBS sometime soon … Can’t wait to see where she takes us. Makes me want to dig out my hanbok, some old family albums and a map. Perhaps I’ll plan a trip back to Seoul. (It’s been more than a decade since my first and last visit. What a shame!)

I have, however, been to French Polynesia recently, where I dined at Jean-Georges’ Lagoon restaurant at the St. Regis hotel in Bora Bora. It was quite a treat! (More on the Lagoon on Food & Wine’s site.)

Dining at Jean-Georges' Lagoon restaurant, which hangs over the turquoise waters of a motu.

Gratis creme brulee for dessert. We had a lovely French expat waiter, and it was magical to watch the fishies swim in the lights over the lagoon.

You can see a video preview of “The Kimchee Chronicles” on the New York Times Website, at http://video.nytimes.com/video/2010/11/26/dining/1248069100729/preview-the-kimchi-chronicles.html.

Egypt, you are on my mind…

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Hanging outside the Temple of Hatshepsut with Paul and Omri. August 2005.

Dear Egypt,

I know it’s been a long time since we last spoke. I haven’t seen you in more than five years, though in someways it feels like many more.

This is such a difficult time for you, it’s hard to know what to say. I can only try to imagine what you are going through. The pictures I see on the news and the stories I hear … It is too much to have you so far away. Please know that I am thinking of you right now, and wishing you find the peace you seek.

I will never forget the kindness you showed me on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days after … And it was good to spend time with you again in 2005 under happier circumstances. Please give my love to the Nile, the Pillars of Karnak, the bustling streets of Cairo, the bedouin tents in the desert Sinai and all the amazing fishies in the great big Red Sea.

Much love …