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Cute Overload: Plush Edition

Oh my god, how many sewn, knitted and crocheted renditions of food exist in the world? There’s a whole softie subculture (not to be confused with furries) that’s nearly too wide-ranging to wrap my head around. Squishy is good but squishy with faces is even better. Next to blue food, anthropomorphism is about as good as it gets.

I went on a Nyanko buying binge a few years ago and have tried to temper my mania for cats disguised as food. Now I’m attempting to be more selective; the first type of cuteness I can weed out is crochet. To be honest, all that nubbiness gives me the creeps. There’s something too cigarette-smoke-and-wet-dog-infested-afghan about it for my liking.

Here are three items I could live with.


I can’t look at these felt egg tarts for too long or they’ll make me crap myself with glee. Maybe that’s the true meaning of the term Cutesypoo.


My Paper Crane has ridiculously sweet products. The bruised banana is sad cute, but I won’t be able to rest until I get the plush moldy bread.


Sweet Meats don’t have faces but I don’t love them any less. 

I’d Rather Eat Molten Lava

Dark_molten_chocolate_cakesNo, I never talk Top Chef. I hardly talk TV at all, lest you think I watch hours and hours a night (I turn it on at 7pm and it doesn’t usually get turned off until 1am, I’m not really ashamed). But it’s the finale and all I cared was that the too-young-to-be-so-‘90s, poor man’s Jennifer Aniston didn’t walk away a winner.

But first, I couldn’t get past everyone calling foie gras “foie.” Gross, how hard is it to say the extra syllable?

Then, I nearly lost my shit when Hung (my favorite because he’s so unabashedly un-nice, yet proficient) went molten cake for his wild card. I hated how last episode it was all about who cooks with soul and how Hung isn’t in his food (like an Asian must fish sauce, tamarind and coconut it all up to get respect—which is exactly what he did to win). But after I saw those chocolate cakes coming out of the ring molds, I understood the true meaning of soullessness. So, so wrong, and so straightforward. I’m surprised he didn’t continue on the proving myself to be warm and cuddly through my heritage route by spiking the dessert with five-spice powder, ginger, pandan or something seemingly exotic.

No matter, it’s quite a feat for a chef to pull off a victory in spite of such a lame dessert. But seriously, chocolate molten cake?

Photo from Kraft, which tells you all you need to know about chocolate molten cakes.

All Atwitter

I totally don’t get the point of Twitter, but then, I didn’t immediately get what the big deal was with Flickr or YouTube either. Maybe it’s because succinct-ness isn’t my forte. Yes, the old windbag theory must be it.

So, look, here are some homegrown attempts at Twittering:

Watching Damages in awe as Dillahunt makes brief appearance. Indeterminate time a few minutes ago

Well, you can’t use HTML so that was already a bust.

Wondering if I’m going to get enough use out of my light jackets since fall isn’t cold enough to wear them yet and next thing you know it’ll be full on wool weather. On the way home from work

Phew, got that within nine characters of the 140 limit, but I actually had a lot of pointless stuff to add to that deep thought.

Angry that I saved my breakfast until 12:30pm to conserve on food and my yogurt I just bought yesterday with a Halloween expiration date had already gone moldy. 12:30pm

Angrier that I left my camera at home this morning. Using a phone for photos doesn’t feel natural. 12:32pm


Ok, that’s my entire day in a nutshell and now I’m exhausted with all that rehashing—Twittering takes a lot out of you.


Sadly, I knew this day would eventually come. (10/23/09)

I don’t take on restaurants as causes and I rarely visit places more than once, even in my own neighborhood (er, maybe especially in my own neighborhood). As it is, there are a gazillion worthy restaurants that I’ll never get around to. But for some inexplicable reason I took a shining to Ureña. I guess it’s the appeal of the underdog; it wanted to be something it couldn’t.

Pamplona_exteriorSo, I was a little bummed to hear of the inevitable closing. But I was also curious how Pamplona might mix things up and finally had the chance to pay a visit after a semi-nearby wine class. You’d think after tasting eighteen wines (in addition to a full glass of pinot noir at lunch) my judgment might be impaired, and maybe it was. However, I’d like to believe that the two albariños with dinner only heightened my senses.

I’d been to Ureña twice, and still, I couldn’t tell you what’s changed with the décor, though a cartoony painting of a pig with acorns definitely is an addition. The palette and furniture seemed muted and neutral before and still seems so. I hesitate to say that they lack patronage because our dining like freaks at 6pm on a Saturday didn’t exactly help us observe the reincarnation under ideal circumstances.

Pamplona_interiorWe were originally told by the hostess that we could only sit at the bar or the new tables set up in the bar area since we didn’t have reservations. I acquiesce, rarely pipe up, but the dining room was completely empty and thankfully another staff member said we were welcome to sit at a table as long as we finished by 8pm. Not a problem, and the gesture was appreciated.

Pamplona_pulpo_braseado_a_la_riojaI decided to try a few things from different sections of the now abbreviated menu. Gone are $30+ entrees, the tasting menu and anything foamy. I was interested in the $10 pulpo braseado a la rioja, essentially wine-braised octopus. I can’t find this dish listed anywhere in the iteration I had. Others mention sausage and smoked lima beans, but this rendition consisted of a purple tangle of octopus legs atop swirls of cream-colored horseradish sauce flanked by disks that resembled carrots but made themselves known as potatoes once bitten into. I don’t know what the wispy sprouts were.

Pamplona_cured_meats_2It was too tough to decide which cured meats to sample, so we went the whole $19 and had a plate of Serrano ham, chorizo and two others that are slipping my mind. I’m not afraid of bread, and I always like to have plenty on hand when eating straight up meats or cheeses. Same with oily, saucy dishes like the octopus. Our original serving was replenished. I only mention this because the couple who later sat next to us rejected a second batch of bread, which made me ponder our gluttony. It’s not 2004, carbs are ok again, right?

Pamplona_paella_mar_y_montanaI would’ve chosen a couple more small dishes instead of the paella if it had been totally up to me. But I’m frequently wrong. The paella, made with bomba rice, was spot on (not that I’ve eaten my way across Valencia, but I have sampled a few versions in Spain). I don’t tend to get excited over non-Asian dishes centering on rice (what’s the big deal with risotto? And chicken soup with rice is foul), paella included. It either tends to be mushy or dull. This saffron-enhanced beauty dotted with mussels, squid and generous hunks of rabbit, was neither. All the grains stayed separate without being chalky or dry.

I make mention of prices (a practice that always feels too servicey for my purposes) only to illustrate part of the Pamplona re-vamp. Emphasis is on smaller dishes, tapas and sharing. The $30 paella was one of the priciest items but wasn’t unreasonable split between two diners.

Pamplona_churrosSheesh, I almost forgot dessert. Churros with Valrhona chocolate were light and only barely sweetened. I can’t say that they were the most exciting thing in the world.

It’s hard to predict if the new formula will catch on with diners who go for the flash of Boqueria, Mercat or Suba. Not that Pamplona necessarily needs to capture that audience to succeed; there’s plenty of room for creative Spanish food in the city.

Pamplona * 37 E. 28th St., New York

Peking Duck House

After researching where to eat in Beijing, the urge for peking duck became hard to ignore. I can’t say for sure that Peking Duck House is a top contender in NYC—I’ve only tried a few places for this delicacy—but it’s where I tend to go and I like to believe that it’s above average.

Two diners are tricky. We wanted a whole duck, but the $25 per person combo dinner with more side dishes and appetizers only offers half a duck for two. It’s not immediately apparent from glancing at the menu that you can just buy a duck flat out for $38, but you can.

The bird comes out whole and is shown to you before being taken to a nearby table to be carved. I always wonder what they do with the carcass. I know that some restaurants will make a soup course from the leftovers. The pancakes at Peking Duck House are large, more burrito sized that normal, so each bundle is substantial. I actually prefer the sweet fluffiness of mantou that some restaurants serve; it feels more decadent.

I never know what to order to compliment the duck. Cold sesame noodles seemed innocuous to start. A vegetable would be smart to counteract the fatty meat and skin, garlic eggplant wasn’t the wisest since Chinese-style eggplant is rarely healthy with all the oil and sauce it comes in. It was good, though incredibly garlicky.

My fortune didn’t sit well with me, true as it may be. “Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on yourself.” Well, duh. (9/28/07)

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