poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Occupying Oakland

I was supposed to write a post about what I was looking forward to most in my new neighborhood, when something big happened – Occupy Oakland. I don’t know how I could possibly write about Oakland right now and not mention it, so I decided to dedicate this post to my (limited) personal experience with Occupy Oakland.

A quick recap of the situation: Occupy Oakland sprung out of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been happening all over the country and around the world. About 3 weeks ago, an encampment started in Frank Ogawa Plaza, which is a large square in front of the City of Oakland government buildings. It is located at the intersection of 14th and Broadway, which is also where I catch the bus to work and the BART to go everywhere else.  Last Tuesday, the city ordered the police to go in and break up the camp at 4:00 a.m., which then spurned a protest that evening. The protest grew to huge numbers, at which point the police decided to use tear gas to break up the protest and arrest the remaining protesters. Since then, there have been a few more protests and marches, culminating to today’s General Strike.

It’s weird being only 5 blocks away from the center of the action and not knowing whether to join in or stay away. I don’t want to over-politicize this blog, since I’ve tried to keep it light and focused mostly on food, but I’ll just say that I do agree with the main points of the Occupy Wall Street movement, so I’m with them in spirit. But let’s face it, I’ve never been an activist. The only protest I’ve ever attended was back in 2001, on the eve of the invasion of Afghanistan. I remember standing in downtown Carrboro, NC, holding a lit candle in my hand and joining in the large crowd that had gathered, hoping that President Bush would see how many of us opposed his war and change his mind. No such luck.

I got an accidental, small taste of tear gas last week, as LF and I walked Downtown, searching for pho. We had no idea that the police had released tear gas just 2 blocks away. All of a sudden, we smelled a weird, chemically scent, followed quickly by our eyes tearing up. Yep, we had been inadvertently tear-gassed. Crazy. We quickly ran into our destination and closed the door, breathing sighs of relief.

Since then, I haven’t been that motivated to be a part of Occupy Oakland. Last Wednesday, only one day after they were forced to leave, Occupy Oakland was once again allowed back into Ogawa Plaza to set up camp. I walked by on my way to the bus stop, but couldn’t get very close due to the still heavy police presence and barricades. Last night, out of curiosity, TC and I walked down to Ogawa Plaza, on the way to dinner. We took a lap around the plaza, looking at the protest signs and the campers. There were volunteers handing out food and water, and a children’s garden had been set up. It was very touching, actually.

Today was the General Strike. I wondered how much mayhem was going to break loose. Fortunately, it’s been a fairly peaceful day, with only a few acts of vandalism here and there.  Finally, I decided to walk down to 14th and Broadway this afternoon to show my support for Occupy Oakland. On my way there, I encountered a large group of kids and parents who were marching from the Oakland Main Library down to Ogawa Plaza. They were adorable; how could you not support these faces chanting about being the 99%?

When I got to the Plaza, it was a lot less crowded and more peaceful than I expected. There were no police in sight. Just lots of people, representing a diversity of race, age, and social groups. It was nice. But I didn’t bring a sign, and I was by myself, so I quickly became bored, felt awkward, and decided to make my way home.

Sign at the General Strike @ Occupy Oakland

I had my doubts, but I really hope that Occupy Oakland succeeds. Hopefully, all of the protests from here on out will be peaceful and positive.  Peace, y’all!

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Junkie Noodle (with video!)

This post's namesake. One of the stalls in a Sogo Dept Store Food Court.

Sincere apologies for the delay between posts! Just when I thought I was all caught up, a whole month flies by and there are still tons of photos to post from my trip to Taiwan in November.

First up: the cornucopia of awesome noodles I inhaled ate. As most of you already know, I love me some noodles. Morning, noon, night… it’s always time for noodles! My love of noodles probably comes from the fact that there are so many different kinds of delicious varieties that are found in Taiwan. Without further ado, here are the noodles (and dear Taiwanese-American readers — please correct my Romanization!).

There were a lot of great noodle carts and small shops near my parents’ house. Among them:

"Pork petal" noodle soup -- pork that is covered with fish paste. Sort of like a pork/fish meatball. Served with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, egg, and green onion.

Fried noodles with mushrooms, carrots, Napa cabbage, and pork. Yummy.

Thin rice noodles with pig intestines. Sounds disgusting but usually quite good (this bowl wasn't so great though).

During our family trip to Yilan, we also stopped in at a crowded noodle shop:

Wonton noodle soup. A mere $1.30!

I had fun with my zha jiang mien (noodles with soy paste).

And of course, noodles could also be found in any food court in Taipei:

My nephew T, already the noodle-holic at 4 years old. We start them young.

Also found at a food court, a motorized bowl of ramen! I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m really, REALLY excited about this thing. (Thanks to my sister PL for the video.)


Hangar One Vodka Tasting

OK, I know that the title here is pretty darn boring but I just couldn’t come up with anything better. Seriously. I tried a lot of variations on the word “hang” (Hangin’ in there. How’s it Hangin’? Hanging out at Hangar One. Even Hangin’ Tough.) In the end, I decided that the tour speaks for itself, and if you can’t deal with the dull title, well, that’s just too bad!

I know what you’re thinking: Who goes to a vodka tasting? Does vodka even have distinctive flavor? Let me just say that Hangar One vodka is not just any vodka. It’s small batch, hand-crafted, and made with all natural ingredients. (Yes, you know that I love all of the snooty details.) They specifically make flavors that none of the big distilleries, such as Skyy and Absolut, will make, such as Citron Buddha’s Hand, Kaffir Lime, and Spiced Pear. Their Straight Vodka tastes like a great martini, directly from the bottle.

Important materials: tasting glass, water, and menu.

The tasting is very special too. It’s held in an old airplane hangar (duh) out in Alameda. On the day we went, it was overcast and threatening rain — ideal for sipping spirits indoors. For $10, you get tiny sips of 10 different liquors, including eau de vie (aka European-style schnapps), vodka, whiskey, and tea-infused liquors. If the pourer likes you, s/he might give you a couple more to sample. We were lucky enough to try the first batch of their new Firelit Coffee Liqueur, which tasted like all coffee and no alcohol. And unlike Bailey’s, it wasn’t too sweet. If only it wasn’t $50 a bottle, I would’ve definitely brought some home.

Such good, attentive students on the ways of Hangar One.

For an extra $5, the tasting includes a small glass of absinthe. We got a full lesson on how to drink it (see videos) and also why it’s not crazy green or illegal. Why is it not green or illegal? I forgot. Even though I wasn’t tipsy after tasting the 10+ spirits, the glass of absinthe really pushed me over the edge. Thank goodness for the designated drivers!

Do not mess: Absinthe with pink skull and crossbones.

My only gripe was that there wasn’t a big room with comfy seating to hang out in after the tour. They’re all business here — there isn’t a bar, nor is there a restaurant. You are welcome to bring your own food, though, and there’s a little space with a few chairs and some hula hoops.

View of San Francisco from the Hangar One parking lot.

If you can’t tell already, I highly recommend this tasting if you’re ever in Oakland. Cheers!