Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Year 3: Room and Board Annual Clearance Sale 2011

Reese Sectional from the 2009 sale
It's become an annual tradition to stay up all night for the launch of the online Room & Board Annual Clearance sale. I'm pretty good about being patient and waiting all year for the once a year sale on December 26th for my furniture needs. Usually the discount ranges from 30-50% off, and a little more for floor samples. They usually load all the clearance items at midnight Minnesota (central) time, and it's worthwhile to stay up as items sell out really quickly. I'm not the only waiting up as the website has crashed the last few years that I've been following the sale. Despite technical issues, I've always gotten lucky every year and been able to buy exactly what I was looking for, mostly thanks to the great customer service from the folks in the call center in Minnesota. I do all my research all year long, visiting showrooms, reviewing the catalog, so I'm ready to pull the trigger as soon as the clearance page is loaded. The first year, 2009, was the Reese Sectional and a pair of Meade chairs for our living room. Last year was the Kartell Phillipe Starck Louis Ghost chairs. I've always had to follow up with the Minnesota call center in the morning due to the technical issues or delivery questions, but the service I get from them is outstanding. Seriously the best customer service out there. I prefer to shop with them over the phone rather than in the stores. For even more savings, I've had my mom go to the floor sample sale on December 26th at the stores, since I'm always traveling on Christmas. Usually you can save another 20 percent or so, but there's always a line before the store opens so you have to get there early and know what you want. If things sell out online overnight, it's a good idea to try your luck in stores in the morning.
Meade Chairs from the 2009 sale
This year, the front clearance page wasn't loaded right at Midnight central time, more like 1am. Then, although the clearance page was loaded, most of the discontinued / limited items weren't loaded onto the clearance page, it was still mostly special orders that had been that had been there for awhile. They was a lot of activity on the website: loaded a lot of new items and colors and completely pulled the discontinued items off the website but didn't reload them in the clearance section. The website froze a couple of times but didn't
completely crash as badly as previous years. I checked a few more times, around 3am, 7am, but still nothing new was loaded. Finally, by the time I woke up at about 9:30am central, everything had been loaded. At least I had company this year, my friend S who was waiting for the sale from West Coast. Alls well that ends well though, and despite a sleepless night, we both snagged exactly what we wanted at great prices, and we will be picking up our purchases from the distribution center (to save on delivery costs) in early January. Pictures of the latest purchase to come!
A pair of Louis Ghost Chairs from the 2010 sale

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Lobster Roll

Merry Christmas everyone! After a morning of opening up presents and a breakfast ham, egg, and cheese casserole, we had a late afternoon lobster roll snack. We had our traditional Christmas eve dinner with steamed live Maine lobsters, crab cakes and clam chowder last night. We ended up with 9 1.5 lb lobsters, which was way too much for five people. We took the meat from three lobsters and the tail from a fourth lobster for lobster rolls today. I made the lobster salad filling following a Pearl Oyster Bar recipe via Chowhound last night and chilled it overnight last night to let the flavors combine, and assembled the rolls with buttered toasted new England style hot dog buns today. They were delicious; generous heaps of fresh sweet lobster, with a little tanginess from the lemon juice and mayo and some freshness and texture from the celery, lettuce and chives, nestled in a buttery warm toasted bun. I have to imagine its hard to go wrong when you start with live Maine lobsters; most places make lobster rolls with reject leftover lobsters.

Pearl Oyster Bar Lobster Rolls Recipe (makes 6 small lobster rolls)
  • Steam four 1.5 - 1.75 lb live lobsters for 15 minutes, let cool and remove the meat from the lobsters (thanks Scott!). Dice the meat into 1/2 inch chunks. Mine were a little bigger, which I recommend, to get more chunky lobster flavor
  • Combine in a metal bowl: 1/4-1/3 cup of light mayo, 1 stem of celery fine diced, 1.25 TB of lemon juice (juice from 1/2 a lemon), 1/4 tsp of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of dry mustard powder and onion powder (these were my additions). Mix together thoroughly and stir in the lobster meat and chill for at least an hour (overnight for us)
  • Melt some butter in a large pan and toast until golden brown inside and out 6 hot dog rolls (new england style is the best, with toasty surface area on both sides)
  • Tear a few leaves of lettuce and chop up a bunch of chives. Mix half of the chives with the lobster salad filling. Assemble with 1-2 two lettuce leaves in a toasted bun, a heaping mound of lobster salad filling and sprinkle the top with more chives and eat immediately

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fifth Avenue Uniqlo: +J is Finally Mine!

Still waiting for them to open a Uniqlo in LA. The new Uniqlo on 5th Avenue is awesome. It's huge, bigger than the Soho location, but a really nice shopping experience, especially because it's not nearly as crazy crowded as Soho. I didn't even have to wait in line to pay. I was so excited to pick up a piece from +J F/W 2011 collection, Jil Sanders final collaboration with Uniqlo. I've always liked Jil Sander, since the days of her eponymous label; I like the clean, minimalist, androgynous looks, and I've really like her work with Uniqlo, especially at the prices for such great quality and design. It's more expensive than regular Uniqlo, but I think it's worth it for the amazing design. Not living in New York anymore, I've never been able to purchase anything from the collection. Especially after seeing the beautifully shot ad campaign with Arizona Muse, I really wanted a piece from this final collection for my collection. I had pretty much given up all hope; in Taipei, they were pretty much sold out of all the pieces, and I expected the same in New York, so I was surprised to see most of the pieces from the collection still available at the 5th Avenue store. Better yet, I was able to find my favorite piece, the wool short down parka in navy in my size, which I fell in love with immediately. I thought it was the most unique piece of the collection, and very Jil Sander. I like how even though the jacket is filled with down, so it's nice and warm, the exterior is wool, so it feels a little dressier than the typical shiny puffy down jacket. They also had same coat in black, but the navy was more interesting, plus I have no navy coats. I can see how the cropped silhouette, particularly the 3/4 length sleeves might be impractical for New York winters, but it's perfect for LA. To top it all off, the collection was on second markdown, over 50% off the original price. This is one of the few times that I probably would have even paid full price since it's the final collection and I have such limited time in New York, but I was more than happy to save the money. It's going to take a bit of work styling the parka, since it has such an interesting proportions, with the cropped length and sleeves, bell sleeves, huge hood, and voluminous almost cape-like shape, but it's a really great piece. It definitely has to be worn with something quite fitted on the bottom. Can't wait to wear it, modeling pictures to come hopefully. Images below from Uniqlo.

The wool short down parka that I bought, but in Navy
+J down jacket. I really like the shape of this one too, although I already have 2 puffy down jackets, including 1 from Uniqlo, which is more than enough for Southern California

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Discovery Channel Action in the Sacred Monkey Forest

The monkeys are a lot nicer in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud than they are at Pura Uluwatu. I saw them grab for a few water bottles, and they will climb on you and search you for bananas if you have them, but that's your own fault for buying the bananas and encouraging them. Overall, they seem pretty content with playing with trash, grooming each other and other monkey business.
As a passerby noted, "a special moment"

Tanah Lot and Arrival in Ubud

Tanah Lot. Cool that it's practically on an island, but it was a lot smaller than I expected. With a lot of tourists.
On this trip, we did a lot more sightseeing around the island than previous trips. On our first trip, we were too exhausted from the wedding too do much, plus we were just getting to know our way around Bali. The hotels took care of most of our transportation, so we didn't have to venture out to do much on our own. My second trip to Bali was much shorter, but we definitely were more adventurous in venturing out of the hotel and resorts for meals as well as cheap massages. We also met Pande, a driver, on that trip, who took us around Ubud and back to the airport, and who I hired this trip for some sightseeing trips. His driving was safe, car was clean, spoke decent English, and we trusted him to get us where we needed to be, and we also knew that he would give us a fair price, depending on the distance / time traveled. The Tirta Empul / Mount Batur was our longest trip, pretty much all day, and he took us around for 50,000 rupiah, or just over $50USD. For most of our other trips, he charged us 25,000 rupiah. The roads in Bali are pretty hard to navigate as there really aren't any signs, so hiring a driver is the way to go for longer trips. We rented a motorbike for about $4 USD a day for 5 days to get around Ubud, which was great for meals in town, massages and local sightseeing.
I thought it was pretty brave to surf here with all the rocky formations

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pura Luhur Uluwatu: Kecak Fire Dance at Sunset

On our second night in Jimbaran, our driver Pande, whom I met on my previous trip, drove us down to Pura Uluwatu to check out the temple views and watch the daily Kecak fire dance at sunset. The temple is situated high on the cliffs in the very southwest corner of Bali. We weren't actually allowed in the temples, but there were plenty of beautiful views around the temple. The monkeys at Pura Uluwatu are evil; we actually watched them snatch waterbottles out of people's backpacks and flip flops right off of people's feet. The bottled water they would actually drink, but they would just hold the flip flops hostage until the victim traded them some bananas. I'm convinced that the monkeys are trained by the people selling bananas. I really like the Kecak Fire Dance. We saw a couple of dances on our first trip including the Legong and Barong, but I think the Kecak is my favorite, lots of action and fun. The "music" is entirely provided by an all male chorus, who is sometimes involved in the action as well. Definitely worth checking out (iPhone video below).
Don't let their innocent faces fool you
Only bottled water for the monkeys. They were pros, easily twisting off the tops and chugging the water
Don't sit too close to the stage!

Jimbaran Bay: Seafood Warungs

The local fisherman putting the boat away for the day
We spent our first two nights in Bali at Jimbaran Bay in the southern peninsula, not too far from the airport. It's nice to have a few days at the beach to relax a little bit, although a day or two is more than enough for me; 2-3 hours under an umbrella at the beach is enough for me for an entire trip, I'm just not a huge beach person. I like Jimbaran mainly for the seafood warungs. On our first trip, we mostly ate at the southern most warungs, near the Intercontinental and Four Seasons. This year, our hotel was right next to the middle warungs, which we tried. It could have just been more peak season (July), but I thought the seafood was better at the southern warungs a few years ago. Nevertheless, we had a delicious lunch right on the beach; freshly caught prawns and whole snapper grilled on the spot in the signature lime chili marinade, served with sambal, garlic, and my favorite chili, ginger, scallion, vinegar dipping sauce, and a cold Bintang beer.
Not complete without a stray dog under the table

Grandma Nitti's: A Thanksgiving Dinner

We spent Thanksgiving in Taipei at Grandma Nitti's Kitchen in the Shida district, where we had a full Thanksgiving meal, including turkey & gravy, stuffing, soup & salad, pumpkin pie and apple pie. After a week of traveling around Taiwan and eating only Taiwanese food, it actually sort of hit the spot; comforting and reminded us of home.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

D'Ange Bakery - Taiwanese Bakery in the SGV

In Taipei, there are cute bakeries on every corner filled with sweet and savory goodies, baked that day. I love freshly baked savory baked goods for breakfast (hot dog? cheese? corn? scallions? Preferably all together!), but I've never been able to find a decent bakery that could replicate the treats that I could get in Taiwan. The best breads are super light and fluffy and slightly sweet, without being too oily and dense with the savory toppings. I was very excited to discover the recently opened D'ange bakery in the San Gabriel Valley. I haven't tried their full range of offerings, but so far I love the hot dog cheese bread (pictured below) and had a delicious cranberry raisin scone this evening. I'm excited to try more of their goods soon!
Substantial and crumbly without being dry or dense with hints of citrus, vanilla. Really good and not too sweet.
 D'ange Sandwich Bakery
800 West Las Tunas
San Gabriel, CA

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tsujita Ramen: More Pork Overload in the Westside

S. & I had a late lunch at Tsujita Ramen on Sawtelle today after running a bunch of errands. Tsujita is a recently opened branch of Tokyo's famous Nidaime Tsujita ramen chain, which only recently started serving its famous ramen and only at lunchtime. I've heard plenty of reports of hour long lines, but fortunately since we were there so late, around 2pm, we were seated in about 5 minutes. I ordered the tsukumen with egg and S. had the regular ramen with egg. The tsukumen comes with a very concentrated porky dipping sauce and fairly thick chewy noodles, while the ramen comes with thin noodles, cooked hard, medium or soft, and a more traditional tonkatsu broth. Even though Jonathan Gold preferred the tsukumen in the LA Weekly review, I actually preferred the regular ramen, both for the relatively lighter broth as well as thinner noodles. The tsukumen was just too much work and I can only take so much pure porkiness. I appreciate the 60 hours of pork bone stewing, but the resulting broth is really strong. Even Yamadaya, which I really like, is too rich for me by the end of the bowl. I've found that I can only really take the shoyu version at Yamadaya. I'd say the ramen broth at Tsujita is slightly lighter with more subtlety than the Yamadaya ramen and the noodles are excellent. I like their soft boiled egg as well, and the bowls weren't huge, but we were stuffed afterwards. I never got the hot water into my concentrated broth as promised when finished, but I was too full anyway. Service was quite slow; we had to work to flag them down to get water refills, the check and they never came to offer to refill my broth. With such a small space and long waits, it's a little unfortunate. Not sure if there was any MSG in the broth, but I was in serious ramen coma afterward. We also drove by Ramen Jinya under construction also on Sawtelle, looks like the Westside is about to be ramen central soon!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...