Archive for the category “Asian”

A Girls’ Weekend that Always Centers Around the Guys…

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to Greenville/Spartanburg to meet up with some of my favorite ladies (and men) for our annual trek to Dabo Swinney’s Ladies’ Football Clinic. Y’all, this is not a “tell me what 3rd down means” football clinic. This is a gathering of 1000+ women with pretty high football IQs (well, most of them know the sport!). The coaching staff is generally quite impressed with the passion for: coaches, players, hometown heroes, and the sport, as well as the knowledge demonstrated through the intelligent questions being asked.

They are equally (okay, probably more so) entertained by the giddy “teenage girliness” that is evident in every session of the “locker room visit”. Some of the women are downright inappropriate (I’m nodding your way – woman who shoved dollar bills in Adam Humphries waistband – with a phone number on one! Incidentally, the money was PROMPTLY returned so as not to violate any NCAA regulations!)

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CW from upper left: Kathleen Swinney and Ali Rogers, Kesley and me, 2013 “All In” token, and Mama Watkins (left), me, and Mama Boyd – all very lovely ladies!

CW from Upper Left: Adam Humphries, Daniel Rodriguez, Zac Brooks, Daniel Stone, a whole mess of gigantic football players - and me!

CW from Upper Left: Adam Humphries, Daniel Rodriguez, Zac Brooks, Daniel Stone, a whole mess of gigantic football players – and me!

The Ladies’ Clinic is a fundraiser (in its fifth year with Dabo, and twelfth year overall (I believe)) to raise money toward breast cancer research. That’s a cause near and dear to my heart, as well as to the Swinney family. 25% of the registration fee goes toward research (and is matched by Dabo’s All-In Team Foundation) and tens of thousands of dollars are raised through silent and live auction items such as a ride-along with the team from the hotel to the game, participation in Tiger Walk, and tickets to the game ($21,000 total for 3 pairs – one donated by Coach Swinney to match the other two fan purchases), signed jerseys (Nuk Hopkins, anyone?), personally signed helmets (2 x $1,400), and many more. It was a fantastic day – as always!

But, alas…this blog is about adventures in dining – and friends – I had some!

After spending some time in my company’s Greenville manufacturing facility on Thursday, my “second family” and I went to R.J. Rockers for the Thursday night tasting tradition. I’m actually not a big beer drinker, but we always feel the need to get a “double-fisted Ker” shot – for posterity’s sake, I guess. (note: it was HOT and MUGGY that night…not a pretty sight for the chick w/ blown out naturally curly hair!)

My American Red Glare on my right, and Cindy's Strawberry Wheat on my left.

My American Red Glare on my right, and Cindy’s Strawberry Wheat on my left.

We then headed down the street to Wild Ace in downtown Spartanburg – with a small group of friends who gathered at Rockers. I quickly made friends with the bartender while we were waiting on the rest of the group to arrive. It’s what I do. 🙂

As a result, he was kind enough to come upstairs and take care of everyone’s drink orders while we were acquainting ourselves with the menu. Wild Ace offers a lot, so I quickly gave up. I turned my fate over to our server, Devin. He started to ask a few questions, but I simply gave him the “talk to the hand” gesture – along with an encouraging smile.

When I was served my meal, I was informed that I was receiving the “Sopwith Camel” (aka: Wild Ace version of the French Dip). The sandwich was fine. I wouldn’t say it was any better or any worse than any other French Dip I have had, but it was good. It was served with chips, which were actually quite tasty (maybe because I had already had the equivalent of three beers at that point, and salty food just tasted good! But, I do think the chips were good stuff).

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On Friday, Cindy, Kesley and I were determined to meet two of our favorite Clemson men in Charlotte for lunch. A mere 90 minutes away, give or take! We met the guys at Duckworths in Ballantyne. We arrived shortly before the guys did (after we amended the meeting time because we were running late!), so we started with some Buffalo bleu cheese chips (OMG!)

Chips

We were meeting my friends Anthony and Daniel, who both work in the Charlotte area. I first met Ant several years ago. I’ve lost count now how many years ago that was. He’s the sweetest, most charming guy – but he bucks that description every chance he gets! He has hash-tagged himself the #LargeAngryBlackMan on Twitter (it’s a joke, y’all…look at that smile!).

Ant

Ant

And, Daniel…well, he and I met through the Clemson Twitter fam as well, but we had a real-life connection as well! One of my most dear friends, Chanda, grew up with Daniel in Orange County, CA! It is indeed a small world, folks! I dug this man since the minute I met him. And…he’s a proud member of the #FKC (Fat Kid Club). See how excited he is about food? (sadly, I went the other way…from skinny kid to not-so much…but we’re both still happy!)

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Former FKC, Daniel

Both Daniel and Ant were very excited to see my indecisiveness play out in real life. When our server, Sandy, came by to take orders, I simply let her know that everything on the menu was fair game, and that she should choose her favorite lunch item for me. She was a little panicked, but ultimately agreed to order for me.

When she came back, she informed me that she had chosen the Fajita Chicken Philly (marinated fajita chicken served on a Philly roll with cheese, peppers and onions).

Fajita

It had great flavor, but it was HUGE! I knew that I could count on Ant to finish the leftovers, and he did. With a smile! After a nice, long lunch, we headed out in different directions. It was so nice to see the guys though!

Daniel, Cindy, Kesley, Ker, and Ant at lunch at Duckworth's.

Daniel, Cindy, Kesley, Ker, and Ant at lunch at Duckworth’s.

Later that evening, we were meeting another favorite Clemson friend, beat writer Greg, for dinner in downtown Greenville (one of my favorite cities in America!). Greg chose Nose Dive (a Table 301 restaurant – of Soby’s fame (the place I had my graduation dinner so many years ago)). Nose Dive is a newer Gastropub, with an inspired menu! Again, everything looked fantastic, so I just turned my order over to Brian, our server. I let him know early on that I’d have him choose my meal, and that I would like a glass of white wine to pair with it.

Brian was totally game. I could tell he was really considering what to bring me, but he wasn’t worried when I gave him carte blanche. He first came back with a glass of Pinot Grigio – which was nice and refreshing since I had asked my friends to sit on the hot and muggy patio!

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Then, he brought the Roast Chicken which was really half of a chicken served over a bed of croutons and tomatoes (yummy!) and topped with herbs and Dijon sauce. The portion was ridiculous, so half of it went home for Cindy’s daughter (who is a gymnast with a never-ending appetite!). The half that I did eat was delicious! The chicken was so moist and tender, and the herbs and Dijon were perfect accents. Although there wasn’t much in the way of “healthy” sides (I love veggies!), the crouton salad was very tasty!

I’d definitely go back to Nose Dive (although Greenville has so many good restaurants to choose from!). It was great spending time with Greg too (whom we’d also briefly meet up with after the clinic on Saturday – and whom I neglected to take a picture of! Shame on me.)

Saturday, we hit the road nice and early to make it to the clinic, and then just took it easy that evening. We hit up Thai Taste, with Daniel, his wife Kate, and their baby girl, Ella. She is, incidentally, the only child I’ve held in a long time who did not cry! She must be the perfect baby! 🙂 And, she’s stinking cute too!

It was so nice to get down south again, spend quality time with several friends, and have a bit of southern cookin’! What’s your favorite taste of the south?

A Farewell “Toast” with Great Friends!

Some of you (friends and family) may know that I am planning to relocate from the greater Detroit area to the greater Milwaukee area soon. I’ve accepted a fantastic new position, and I’m really excited about this new opportunity. At the same time, I’m bummed to be leaving some really great friends behind in MI. I know that we’ll end up meeting up somewhere – MI, Chicago, Milwaukee, or some other “road trip” location TBD. But, that still means I won’t get to see these friends as frequently as I’d like. 😦

That said, two of my closest friends here in Michigan (whom I’ve written about before – here, here, here, and here, and who wrote a guest post for me) invited me to brunch this morning. We were to meet at Toast in Ferndale at 11AM this morning. I arrived a bit early and gave my name to the hostess – twice, as she neglected to write it down the first time (and it turns out, the second time too).

After Bryan and Jessi arrived, we caught up a bit outside of the restaurant. It was a rainy morning, but it was still warm enough to stand outside. We waited for 30 minutes before Bryan’s name, not mine, was called. The hostess simply dismissed the fact that my name had never been added to the list. I had been there for ~45 minutes at that point, and was not impressed by the “service” thus far, but was famished and ready to eat! Whatever. Moving on…

Once inside, we were promptly greeted and had our drinks delivered. Then, we were swiftly ignored for several minutes. Again, the service…not impressive.

Once the server came back to take our order, we couldn’t rattle off our choices quickly enough! I started by proclaiming that I couldn’t decide between the breakfast burrito , a standard on the menu, and a special item: Thai style Eggs Benny. The combination of flavors just sounded divine to me, but I also love a good breakfast burrito!

Breakfast menu Toast.

Breakfast menu Toast. It’s an “eye chart”, but you get the gist! The breakfast burrito consists of

Thai_Eggs_Benny

The server quickly responded that the special is fantastic, so the special was what I would have. Jessi ordered the standard Eggs Benny, and Bryan ordered a custom omelet – both with grits. The server ended up choosing home fries for me, though I would have welcomed the opportunity to have grits again!

We continued to catch up while waiting for our meals. Considering how crowded the restaurant was, they didn’t take too long to be delivered.

Thai style Eggs Benny at Toast.

Thai style Eggs Benny at Toast.

And, when I bit into my Thai style Eggs Benny, I knew I had made a good choice. The coconut biscuits had a subtle flavor, but were a cool compliment to the (semi) spicy red chili Hollandaise. I love having spinach on my breakfast foods, and it worked really well in this dish. And, the grilled shrimp (3 of them) gave another bit of much-needed morning protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.

I’m not usually a fan of potato chunks at breakfast. I prefer hash browns. However, the potatoes had a nice flavor to them, and I enjoyed several bites.

Home fries at Toast.

Home fries at Toast.

Bryan and Jessi had been to Toast before, and based on their prior experiences, we had we had talked about having brunch here before. I was glad we finally made good on that plan!

I was quite pleased with my breakfast, as was Jessi with hers. But, Bryan was disappointed with his, and from my view, rightfully so. His eggs were not tasty (they looked overcooked to me), and he said the chicken apple sausage lacked any apple flavor.

Sadly, even our attempts to cheer him up didn’t work. He didn’t really share the enthusiasm about mine or Jessi’s meals when we shared a bit with him. The Hollandaise fell short in his opinion (and he is an informed foodie!). He did admit that the red chili flavor was the upside of my dish (I agree!).

It was a bummer that his food wasn’t very good, since he and Jessi had always had fabulous experiences at Toast before. And, Toast’s reputation is quite good! Still, Jessi and I continued to dig into our meals!

My personal biggest disappointment with our brunch experience was with the lackluster service. Despite that, having leisurely brunch together at a new place (for me!) was a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.

I’m going to miss having the opportunity to catch up with these two on a regular basis. Distance (aka: absence) will make the heart grow fonder – and will increase our already over-the-top texting conversations! Thanks for a lovely morning of catching up over brunch.

Love you two!

Ker, aka: Cupcake 🙂

Sushi, in Austin? You bet! Uchiko is the place to go.

For the past five years, I’ve been working with folks headquartered in Austin, TX. As with all relationships, we’ve had our ups and downs, but this relationship has been mostly composed of “ups” on my end. I really enjoy the team I met with in Texas this week, and not solely because they gave up an evening of personal time and took me to a fantastic sushi restaurant for dinner! 🙂

Following our dinner, we spent approximately 9 hours holed up in a conference room working together: exchanging information, setting strategy, and simply chatting.

But, at dinner…we talked about Austin, cooking, family, pets, and this blog. After explaining my indecisive nature, I surrendered my evening’s meal over to my hosts for the evening (after they’d been appropriately educated as to my “no-gos”).

So, where did said team invite me to join them for dinner? Only to the (second) best sushi joint in Austin. Second, only because the owners of “the best” sushi spot opened a second location – which is where we dined. We met at Uchiko – a well-renowned sushi restaurant.

We started off with the Innocenti Malbec 2011 La Consulta Mendoza. My companions didn’t know this, but I do love a good Malbec. I noticed that this particular wine left a heavy sugar residue in my glass. I can dig that! It means it’s “thick” (to quote a friend and coworker of mine). I had never thought to use that word to describe my “go-to” label, but hindsight being 20/20, my friend Cody was right. As with Layer Cake, Innocenti had a rich, spicy, and elegant flavor that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Then, we ordered the grilled edamame and roasted golden beets. And, Jordan, who was one of the de-facto hosts of the evening, suggested that we order some crispy brussel sprouts with lemon and chili. Oh. Dear. Lord. They. Were. DELICIOUS!! I’m pretty sure I ate most of the contents of this particular bowl!

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We followed the most amazing Brussel Sprouts evah! with the hama chili, which was delightful! Not nearly as spicy as I had anticipated, but it had a nice flavor balance with the tuna, pepper and orange.

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I’m not sure that I’m going to accurately capture everything else that followed. It seemed that beautifully plated dishes were being delivered at breakneck speed that night! However, I can assure you that everything we tried that evening was 1) enjoyed by all, and 2) devoured such that the bussers (who were “Johnny on the spot” quick) took only clean plates away. Folks, the food was THAT good. And, the service was top-notch.

Following the delights I have already mentioned, we had the avocado and nasu.

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Next up: the hot rock. (such a simple, yet fun experience)

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Then, we finished the evening with an incredibly unique and delicious dessert. Our table describes the fried milk as a new take on deconstructed s’mores, of sorts. Imagine frozen milk – deep-fried, and served with chocolate, sugar, and cream. It may not look like much, but believe me…it was a perfect finish to this fabulous dining experience.

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I’m grateful to have had time to spend just enjoying some “downtime” with my business associates. Not to mention…being taken to a premier sushi restaurant in one of the coolest cities in America…I’m a lucky gal! Believe me, we spent enough time the following day really digging into the work! (for which, I’m also grateful)

Thanks, y’all!

Cheers!

Ker

P.S. Next time I’m in Austin (which shall be in March), what places are on the not-to-miss list? Please leave a comment.

Singapore! Day 10: Chinese seafood, Durian, and “that lunch we won’t talk about”

Tomorrow is my last day in Singapore.  The time has pretty much flown by – especially considering I prefer long weekend vacations to full week vacations (and two weeks, in this instance!).  Steve has done a great job of packing in a lot of sightseeing, time with his friends, walking about town, and of course…fantastic food!

As we set out for lunch today, he had planned on taking me over to Orchard Road for something “fancy”.  As we walked, we saw more chickens on the side of the road.  Because that still amuses me, I took a picture.

I told Steve that the burger joint he had mentioned earlier in the week actually sounded good.  I think after having so much ethnic food (even for breakfast), I was just craving something American.  Kind of pathetic, I know!  It turns out that the place he had mentioned was not open for lunch.  Steve begged me not to mention this in the blog, but in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that we went to Carl’s Junior in the MRT station to have burgers and fries for lunch!  I had the avocado and bacon burger, and he had the jalapeno burger.  I also had the first caffeine drink I’ve had since I’ve been here.  “American” iced tea.  It was decadent!

We decided to head back to his apartment for the afternoon, as the threat of rain loomed over us.  Again, it never did rain, but it was a good excuse for Steve to do laundry and for us to enjoy “The Dark Knight Rises“.  At 2 hours and 40 minutes, it was a perfect way to spend part of the afternoon before heading out toward Wing Seong Fatty’s  for dinner.

Fatty’s is a regular haunt for Steve and his friends.  He ordered us Spring Rolls, Bok Choy, Black Pepper Prawns, and Black Pepper Chicken.

Spring Rolls

Bok Choy

Black Pepper Prawns

Black Pepper Chicken

While all of the food was very good, I was especially partial to the Bok Choy and the Black Pepper Chicken.  The black pepper in these dishes reminds me of the Kampot Pepper my friend Chanda sends me (it’s Cambodian pepper, and it’s amazing!)  One piece of advice…the black pepper totally sticks in one’s teeth, so toothpicks and dental floss are key!

Since we were so close, Steve and I walked over to Bugis Street to check out the “affordable shopping”.  Basically, it’s a small step up from China Town’s street market shopping, and you can buy everything from produce to clothing to accessories to trinkets.  We stopped to check out the Durian, which is a fruit that smells so bad it’s actually banned on the MRT lines!

Durian

I told Steve that I would try it if it was a “must do”, but he didn’t force me to do so after dinner (had we gone before dinner, I think he’d have bought one for me).  In all honesty, the pungent smell alone was enough to make me happy to pass on tasting it.

We then hopped the MRT back home and walked in intense humidity (89%)!  I swear that today was the only day I truly felt like I was melting in Singapore – and it wasn’t all that hot!  I have no idea how I’m going to adjust to going back to the Midwest US and deal with the snow and cold.  I have one more day to enjoy the warmth of Singapore – stay tuned!

Cheers!

Ker

Singapore! Day 9: Golf in Indonesia and Fish ‘n Chips in Boat Quay

Steve was finally able to take a day off today, so we woke up early to meet his friend, Jeff, and catch a ferry to Indonesia to golf on Batam Island in Indonesia.  We were in a taxi, and on the road by ~6:30AM. It was still dark out, and I think Steve was still half asleep!  🙂

At the station, Steve ordered Laksa noodles for me for breakfast (served with egg), and then we caught the 7:50AM ferry from Vivo City to the Sekupang terminal on Batam Island, Indonesia.

This was supposed to be a meal of spicy noodles, but they weren’t really spicy.   Steve had a HUGE “dollop” of chile paste added to his meal, which caused him to break into a  small sweat.  Mine, not so much.  It was tasty, don’t get me wrong; it just wasn’t as “hot” as I imagined it would be.

At 7:50AM, we took the ferry over from Singapore to Batam Island – about a 45 minute ride.   And, I’m telling you…this was the most well-organized, easy-going trip – ever!  Try as I did to tick Steve off by having “blonde moments”!

Once we arrived at Batam Hills, from the moment we stepped onto the golf resort grounds, every woman – to a T – said I looked like a doll, Barbie!  Ummm?? But, it sure was nice to have women saying something nice to me!

This was not on the course, but pre-golf game, this is what my hair looked like…very “Barbie”! LOL

It was the curls (thank you Pamcakes and TK), and the color (thank you, Michael!) that had them complimenting me at every turn!

The golf was superbly enjoyable, thanks to three fantastic caddies – of whom I did not capture a collective picture.  But, I did manage to get a picture with my caddy (after a round of golf – “Barbie hair” was not looking good!)

Me and my caddy for the day, Riyama.

After that extremely fun round of golf (if not a “good” round of golf), we grabbed lunch at BHGR.  I was served the “Batam Hills Sandwich” – which included chicken, beef bacon, tomato, cucumber, egg, and mayo – I suppose it was an Asian version of the Club Sandwich.  I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it, but it was quite tasty.  It was unexpectedly refreshing with the cucumber and tomato.  I finished the full sandwich easily.  I also dug having the french fries with chile sauce (they have a nice, spicy chile sauce at the club).

After lunch, we headed back on the ferry toward Singapore.  The return route was a bit more choppy, thanks to this guy…

He was making waves for us to cross over.

Steve and I had ~an hour to regroup before heading over to Boat Quay.  One problem…thunder and lightning struck about 10 minutes before we had to leave.  I admit that I was a bit of a pansy, and after giving Steve crap about getting a taxi to take us places earlier in the week, I (more than once!) asked “are you going to make me walk through the storm??”  He did (though it wasn’t storming yet).  We grabbed umbrellas and headed through Robertson Quay to Clarke Quay and over to Boat Quay to “Smith’s Fish and Chips“.

And…we beat the rain!! VICTORY!!

Once there, I was reacquainted with Bryan, whom I had met Friday night, and I met a few others – great people!  And, as the night progressed, I was reacquainted with more and more (now) familiar faces!  We also watched an incredible thunderstorm (with brilliant lightning) from the deck of the restaurant.  I’ve never been outside in such a storm, but nobody else flinched, so I powered through it!

Steve ordered me fried cod for dinner.  Holy I-can’t-finish-this-portion dinner!  Quite tasty, mind you. The fish and chips (fries) were delicious with vinegar and salt.  But, dear gosh… a HUGE portion!

It took me forever to even get through a third of this portion, mostly because I was chatting up a storm with Steve’s friends. Again, really cool men.

It was ~9:30PM by the time we left. AKA: way past Steve’s bedtime. No judgement…dude knows he needs sleep.

As we walked home, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a picture of the view of Clarke Quay at night – it was beautiful!

I know Steve loves his sleep, so I was grateful to Bryan for going out and grabbing a beer with me at Harry’s (Steve’s local “haunt”).  I have a hard time going to bed early, and it was nice to spend the evening chatting with a friendly man.  Bryan is a gem to be around.  He’s a hunter,  a beer drinker, a cook, and a family man…we shared stories about food, family, and Steve.  😉  And, now I know that I have a second home to stay in when I go to Baton Rouge (IF I go to Baton Rouge again).

Another great day in Southeast Asia!

Cheers!

Ker

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