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Berry Picking & Burnt Bread

Ok, I'm sticking to my Friday vow to help select lost searchers from the past few days. Just this afternoon I received an email from a nice person (and librarian) who accidentally ended up here looking for Rangoon images. That is, the Burmese (ok, Myanmar) city, not my favorite junk "Chinese" food (that I ended up ordering for dinner tonight after being re-reminded of its existence). There's simply no telling where a search engine will take you.

1. escalator mini-dress pictures

Escalator_1  The problem with today's willy nilly Googlers is that they toss phrases in and hope something relevant comes out. Refining searches is where librarians can be useful. It's helpful if you can identify the commonly used term for the vague concept you are interested in.

In this case, that subject would be up skirting. If our Googler had known that, they could've saved time by avoiding Project Me and getting straight to the panties. I'll leave the actual searching to the curious, as my cursory attempt put my computer into pop-up window porn hell.

2. oregonians picked berries now its all Mexicans

Oh, nostalgia…my forte. Please indulge me in some childhood reminiscing. If I remember correctly, growing up in an Oregon suburb there were u-pick fields (keep what you harvest) and pay fields (gleaning fruit for money). Just a couple blocks down the street from my house was a strawberry field that I'm sure is a tacky house or apartment complex now (I'm horrible at deciphering maps, but I am fairly certain this field would've been kind of top and center where that baseball diamond is. I have no idea what that is-I'm 99% sure there wasn't a park in that spot in the '80s. And that new construction to the left was pasture filled with cows. Do I sound like enough of an old-timer for you?) where you'd get paid, I don't know, a couple cents per berry or something. I think me and my sister just went for shits and giggles one afternoon because it wasn't terribly lucrative work.

Despite being half-Mexican we got yelled at by the owner for "creaming his crop" and then he threatened to kick us out. I didn't know what he meant then and I still don't today, though it sounds markedly dirtier as an adult. It's probably for the best that berry-picking is left to the immigrant pros in the NW rather than bored children.

3. my welts were almost gone then i had a beer an i woke up with so many hives

That's not really a question per se, but thank you for sharing. I'm off Aleve after my recent hive incident, but this stranger omission isn't enough to put me off alcohol.

4. san-X Kogepan background

Nyanbaga This is straightforward and the main reason I've included it is because Kogepan's story is so lovably insane. For those not up on their Asian characters beyond Hello Kitty, this anthropomorphic burnt bun is great entry point into the San-X world where a family made of cheese and Beerchan, a beer mug with a face, coexist. My personal favorite is Nyanko, the cats who pose as food (and other objects).

Pressed Sandwiches are the New Lemonade

If you’re not from around here and/or you don’t quite get why I get irrationally irked by neighborhoods like mine full of educated white people  with babies, dogs, SUVs and holier than though attitudes (I guess I’m a relatively schooled Caucasian, who is occasionally self-righteous—it must be the accoutrements that turn people into beasts because, you know, I'm completely un-beastly) all you need is this one photo (ok, there are two).

Ok, now do you get it? How can you live in a world where precocious children set up panini stands on street corners? I'm not even going to get into the sitar. Just imagine these rapscallions as adults. I genuinely fear my golden years when these tykes and their progeny become our nation’s movers, shakers and decision makers. I’d better start being nicer to old people or else the circle of life will come around and bite me on my wrinkled ass. I do like panini, though.


1/2 For some unfounded reason, I thought this tapas place was some sort of frat haven. That didn't appear to be the case on my visit, which was reassuring. What was less than soothing were the seating arrangements. I have my own personal issues with stools. I think I must just be graceless because I find it unreasonably awkward to climb up and perch properly without feeling off kilter and exposed. Lord help me on my Barcelona trip in August. Maybe I should practice my mount and dismount in the next month.

These weren't normal stools at the bar (that set up did exist), but rather stools positioned around a too low, too small wooden barrel. More than two plates and glasses caused a problem and bending towards the food felt unnatural. And the food itself was a touch unnatural, or at least unorthodox.

Instead of the usual aioli topped patatas bravas, these potatoes were simply drizzed in Tabasco sauce. And I swear the cheese plate contained slices of mozzarella. I wasn't aware of any similar fresh Spanish cheeses. The simple long thin spicy chorizo was satisfying, as was the square, pan-baked bacalao empanada. The menu is fairly large, so it's fair to guess that there are lots of hits and misses.

Xunta struck me as half-decent, half-weird. It's definitely not a first choice tapas bar, but it would suffice if you were in the neighborhood and felt too lazy to venture beyond the East Village.

Xunta * 174 First Ave., New York, NY

Wonder Seafood

? Since Edison has become my go-to suburban enclave, I've been looking for dining options beyond Quiznos and Cheesecake Factory (lovely as they are). After a little research, Wonder Seafood emerged as a dim sum contender.  But it was only recently that I was able to cross it off my to-try list.

The interesting thing about non-NYC dim sum is that while there are still crowds and a wait, the chaos level is lower, more English is spoken and forks are given (and used by many Asian-American youngsters).

Most of the classics were available, nothing struck me as out of the ordinary or terribly creative. It was a cart parade of greatest hits.

Wu gok. One of my favorites, maybe because I love the lavender shade of mashed taro. You have to be careful because these will you up.  Perhaps I shouldn't have started with them.

Spare ribs

Shrimp dumplings

Salt and pepper shrimp. I ate a few heads, eyes and all, which might've been a mistake (as you'll soon see).

I didn't know what these were. I thought they would be sweet and hollow, but they have a glutinous mochi-like exterior with a rich chopped shrimp and pork filling.

Pork buns

I grabbed these after we were done eating. I thought it was thick pieces of white bread, like a twist on '60s style fried shrimp toast. But it turned out to be bean curd (which James won't eat). We got them wrapped up to go and then I forgot them in the car overnight.

Ok, I really don't want to blame the dim sum, but I can't give an assessment of this meal without an unappetizing epilogue. About seven hours after dining at Wonder Seafood I became violently ill, the sickest I think I've ever been recent history. It is baffling because James and I ate the same items and I hadn't eaten anything else all day except for this meal. He was fine. I did eat a couple of prawn heads. I've always been a shell-eater despite the disgust it gives others. Could the crispy exoskeletons be the culprit? Who knows, but I'll probably steer clear of dim sum for a while.

Wonder Seafood * 1984 Route 22, Edison, NJ

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Ruby Tuesday

In my most uncharacteristic move ever, I only ate a total of four bites of food during this mishap of a meal. No fault of Ruby Tuesday's, it was just bad timing. I was originally excited to get to try a new-to-me chain restaurant (I mean, I had seen ads but had never paid a visit) but I suspect I was rapidly becoming the victim of food poisoning from earlier dim sum. Having no appetite is a very rare occurrence in my world so I knew something sinister was up.

My head was pounding as we went ahead and ordered chips with spinach cheese dip to share, a sliders with both fries and onion rings for myself. Neither item was enjoyed much, as I had to run to the bathroom twice to stave off false upchuck alarms. Our teenage waitress was kind of enough to give me ibuprofen out of her purse. There's something very suburban about that-I wouldn't dare ask staff for aspirin in NYC.

But it was too late for over the counter painkillers. We had to wrap up our food (of course–sick as a dog or not, I'm not wasting edibles) and hightail it out of there before there was an embarrassing accident. Said accident did eventually occur repeatedly into a DSW bag while stuck in a Staten Island traffic jam.

While I believe Chinese snacks were the likely culprit, I'm going to have a hard time setting foot inside a Ruby Tuesday for some time.

Ruby Tuesday * 675 US Highway 1 S., Iselin, NJ

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

Ref2   I feel a strange sense of responsibility when I see Google queriers (yeah, another not-real word) ending up here when it’s very likely that they have no real desire to read anything on this website (blog, whatever). It must be the librarian in me because I feel compelled to help these misguided searchers.

Time permitting, I vow to help the hapless tackle their information needs each and every Friday. You know, it’s always me, me, me (hence the name of this site, duh) so it’s only right that I give back to the online community.

Below are selected search strings, presented verbatim, from approximately the past 24 hours:

1. adult stores paramus "new jersey"

First, I would need to know whether this individual meant retailers for grown ups or porn shops. It’s not like it’s difficult to find naked people doing dirty things on the web, and clearly this person has an internet connection so I’m baffled as to why they’d need bricks and mortar porn. I’m not going to touch this one.

However, The Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus has many offerings for the discerning adult. Lladro is quite classy. I’ve never frequented After Hours Formalwear, but it too sounds right up this searcher’s alley.

2. is juliana margulies Italian

This is a stumper. Clearly, I thought so a couple weeks ago, but I never found any hard evidence to support this. Her father is Jewish, her mother’s ethnicity is a mystery. But let’s not ignore the clues:

Do you need any more substantiation than that? I thought not.

3. trader joe's paramus

What’s up with all the freakin’ Paramus? Though Paramus might seem like the kind of town that would house a TJ’s, it’s just not so. The nearest location is only six miles away in Westwood. It’s my favorite New Jersey branch because it’s never wildly crowded (though it’s lacks the beer and wine of Westfield’s Trader Joe’s) but be wary of the Melting Pot down the street. You’d be better off chomping on a wedge of Trader Giotto's Soy Cheese and calling it a day.

4. phone number for Lucille Roberts in Linden, NJ

Ah, ready reference. A librarian's specialty. At your service: (908) 474-0400 1601 W Edgar Rd.
Linden, NJ

5. wisdom teeth removed pain  pictures

Wisdomteeth Ok, what kind of freaky sadists are out there searching, anyway? You want to see people in pain? Maybe the searcher simply wants to see after photos to get an idea of what it’s in store visually. I sort of get that. What do you think about that kid on the right? Not painful enough for you? Fine, here are some links you’ll love:

Bloody mouth college guy who seems to be enjoying himself

Drugged looking guy with creepy facial hair

Some guy named Brad with a cat named James.

6. pull your own wisdom teeth

Ok, now you’re just being nuts. This is America, retard. You’ll have to cross the pond for that kind of national healthcare horror.

Can a Mall be Too White?

Articles like For Some, An Online Persona Undermines a Resume make me nervous because I really have a hard time judging what can and should be public. It’s not the ‘90s anymore and everyone has the ability to know everyone’s online business. It’s not like I’m posting debaucherous photos of myself (though I have no problem posting words that don’t exist in the dictionary. How can debaucherous not be a word?). I very much restrain myself, much more so now than say, seven years ago. I don’t badmouth, bare my soul (completely) or thankfully, my ass. I do talk about unimportant things and complain quite a bit but that’s hardly a cyber-crime.

Speaking of crime, it seems that malls are no longer safe havens for white folks. In the past week there has been two anti-white mall mentions in the news. Two, does not a trend make, so I’m waiting for the tipping point. The case for the White Plains mall murder that happened last summer is currently going to trial. "All I knew was she had blond hair and blue eyes and she had to die," isn’t really laughable (though it might be in another context) so I’ll leave that one alone.

But for some reason, the guy in Long Island who threw a boulder at a family in a minivan in a parking lot because the mall had become “too white” amuses me. Come on now, is there anything whiter than a mall? There’s no way anyone could argue that somehow Anglo-Saxons borrowed and/or misappropriated mall culture from African-Americans (but if you’d like to try, I’d love to hear it). Of all the things to get worked up over. But judging from the Sunrise Mall’s anchor stores: Wal-Mart, Sears and JC Penny and lack of any dining more upscale than food court offering Bourbon St. Grill, it doesn’t sound like much of a gentrified shopping center to me. Carl Graves really needs to get out more.

Admittedly, I don’t really get or know my Long Island neighborhoods. Like you hear about the Hamptons (I did have an ice cream cone there once while driving through) and clearly that’s rich white people. Then you hear about people tormenting Mexicans and that has to be trashy white people. But then, there are pockets that are seemingly not white at all and I’m guessing this is where the lovely Sunrise Mall might be located.

Img_chalkboard I vividly recall on perhaps my second weekend living in NYC, tagging along to Jones Beach in a borrowed car (the luxury!) with the girls I was staying with. On the way home we stopped at a Red Lobster in a mall parking lot in Baldwin. I’m pretty sure it was called Green Acres and there was a store with outside signage called Stern’s. I don’t think they have those anymore. But we were the only white diners, which was slightly jarring since this was very un-NW and I hadn’t even begun to acclimate to Brooklyn yet. At least no one threw chunks of concrete at us. (I wouldn’t have minded it if someone hurled a Cheddar Bay Biscuit at me because you can never have too many of those.)

I pitched a story about South American hot dogs (yes, South American hot dogs) on Tuesday and they want it by Monday, which is kind of pushing it even though it’s not exactly Pulitzer-level taxing. There’s no way I’ll be able to handle five restaurants tonight. Not to mention the fact that I don’t even like hot dogs (weird, right?). They’re one of the few foods, along with melon, potato chips, chili and spaghetti and meatballs that I could never eat again for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t be sad.

Early Bird Special

Oh my goodness, my early to bed, early to rise and then exercise plan is not having the intended effects at all. I had visions of rising an hour earlier and after 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and a shower (I'm a night bather) I would be amazingly energized and refreshed. Instead, I woke up with that tired gritty eye feeling and it never dissipated all day. I've had bloodshot eyes and have been groggy since 6:30am and it's now 8:10pm.  So, not revitalized. I had even poorer concentration skills at work, was hungrier and sweat even more than normal on my way to work. I'm going to keep at it for the rest of the week in hopes that my body will acclimate, but I see sleeping in till the last possible moment, working out a few nights a week and going to bed with wet hair in my future.

In fact, I'm so exhausted that it's all I can do to type the following link about the Cheesecake Factory from this week's Time. If I went to Yale and knew how to write journalistically and published in mainstream newsweekly magazines, I would totally want to write about Cheesecake Factory (though, apparently, one needs an unusual name for this gig. Oh, and to live in Park Slope. I was curious about a name like  Jyoti Thottham, so I looked it up. If you ever see a one-line writer's bio that claims the author lives in Brooklyn, you're guaranteed it's Park Slope. Jyoti lives right near those Grand Army Plaza arches at the top of Prospect Park.). No commentary from me, this quote sums it up, "With its kitchen-sink menu and gargantuan portions, the Cheesecake Factory is big-tent cuisine at its most expansive. It is a restaurant where everything is included but nothing is authentic." In other words, no mint in the summer rolls or anchovies in the puttanesca, but you'll get large servings of said blandness. I actually plan on a C.F. excursion Saturday while at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, NJ on a suit-seeking mission. It's not every day you get to eat fried macaroni and cheese on top of marinara.

Sunday Night Special: Penang Fried Chicken

Penangchicken I woke up this morning wanting fried chicken. Hey, it happens. On those occasions when you practically drink until dawn, delicate light fare just doesn't appeal. Grease and spice, while probably not the wisest choice, is where it’s at.

I've never made or even tried Nonya style fried chicken, but I've always been intrigued by the notion. We defrosted a slew of drumsticks and I decided to make five my way. James is a purist and didn't want anything to do with my poultry aberration. Each to his own.

I'm looked at about five recipes before deciding on this one written by an American rather than a Malaysian. It seems that traditionally, the chicken is marinated, dried and then fried twice, that's it. But I like a little coating on my fried chicken, so went with a version that employs a light dredging.

Some make the curry powder from scratch. Some simply call for meat curry powder, a designation possibly unique to Malaysian recipes that always confounded me. They frequently specify fish curry powder or meat curry powder. Curry powder in America is kind of general as it is, though I have a bottle of Vietnamese and a can of Indian. It never occurred to me that different meats would require different spice blends, though it certainly makes sense. I made sure to pick up packets of each type, Baba's brand, while in Kuala Lumpur last summer. It looks like the main difference is the prominence of turmeric in the fish curry powder.

Though not always specified, when Singaporean-Malaysian dishes call for mustard powder I think they mean hot English style, like Colman's. Colonial influence, correct? Look no further than the Worcestershire sauce for that tip off. But I haven't found it in the few places I've looked, not even the new amazingly stocked Fairway. (But I could've missed it since they have this annoying display style of not putting like with like. Instead they separate pedestrian from gourmet. The standard cheddar and Monterrey jack blocks are in the back of the store, while all the artisanal cheeses are near the front cheese counter. Salsa shows up in three places: store-made with deli items, brands like Frontera in one spot and Old El Paso types in another.)

I ended up using the hair dryer technique to try and get the remaining marinade to stick to and sink into the chicken. It worked until the device over heated and did that scary thing where it just clicks off and won’t re-start. At least I didn’t blow a fuse. Combined with the warming-up deep fryer, I was probably taxing the electrical limits of my Brooklyn kitchen (two apartments ago, my fuse would blow if I used any combination of microwave, toaster or coffee maker at the same time as the hair dryer).

I think the oil might’ve been a little too hot, as the first batch turned out a bit dark after 12 minutes. The second batch fared slightly better. The flavor was subtle, but definitely noticeable. Slightly sweet and spicy, which was further enhanced by the Worcestershire dipping sauce. I like that sweet/meat combo, though. One of my favorite fried chicken experiments used a sugar and tea marinade. And I loathe sweet tea for drinking. For brining? Good stuff.

Rice might've been nice, white toast points traditional, but I ate my chicken starch-less with a spicy pickled cucumber relish.

Penang Fried Chicken
Inche Kabin

3 pounds chicken pieces
Salt, to taste
¼ cup dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon meat curry powder
2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 tablespoons ginger juice
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
Canola or peanut oil for deep frying
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour or cornstarch

1 teaspoon mustard powder
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 red chiles, sliced

Rinse the chicken parts well, pat dry with paper towels and rub with salt.

Whisk together soy sauce, curry and mustard powders, ginger juice (I used grated ginger, which is juicy but also a little chunky), coconut milk and sugar. Put chicken in a large zip lock bag and pour marinade over. Put in refrigerator and marinate for at least four hours and ideally over night.

Drain chicken pieces, shaking off excess marinade, place on baking sheet and let dry completely, about 3 hours. Alternatively, dry with a hair dryer.

Heat frying oil to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, rice flour and salt together in large bowl. In batches, dust chicken with flour mixture. Fry the chicken, a few pieces at a time, until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Drain chicken on paper towels.

Mix all sauce ingredients and serve on the side.

Serves 4-6.

This recipe is an amalgamation of those found in the following books:

Terrific Pacific Cookbook by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman. Workman. 1995.

Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine by Julie Wong (editor). Star Publications. 2003.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Arbys I’m so out of the loop. How could I not know about this new mall development in Glendale? I love me a Queens mall, but there’s something a bit off with The Shops at Atlas Park. For one, I have no idea what half of these stores even are. Crazy for Animals? Amish Fine Food? White House-Black Market?! What the hell? These are not the chains I’m accustomed to. That’s what happens when you build a mall where no subway goes. And Chili’s is no great shakes. They don’t even have a theme. Er, or are baby back ribs their calling card?

After the lack of Sonics anywhere 100 miles from here, I got on an Arby’s bender because they’re another one of those fast food companies that advertises on TV yet has (almost) zero NYC presence. And I’m dying for a beef ‘n cheddar. I used to eat a beef ‘n cheddar and jamocha shake almost every day for lunch as a high school freshman. Oh, and a Cherry Coke and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in study hall (and I weighed like 70 pounds less then than I do now. No shit. More and more, I’m starting to believe that metabolism slowing with age thing).

Horseysauce A few weeks ago I noticed that they’re building an Arby’s in Middle Village, which makes me happy. But it’s being constructed on the old Niederstein’s spot (scroll to middle of page), which makes me sad because it was the oldest restaurant on Long Island (of course you all know that technically Queens and Brooklyn are on Long Island). Even though the food supposedly sucked, I had every intention of trying Niederstein’s for at least the novelty of an old German hold-out nestled next to a cemetery, while I lived those three years in neighboring Ridgewood. But I never did it. I’ll have to rectify that oversight with a beef ‘n cheddar (don't forget the Horsey Sauce) in the near future.

Old style Arby's hat photo borrowed from tesg's guide to big chain road food consumption.