Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ballard Farmers Market

The problem with farmers markets is mainly we can see but can't buy. Grrrr. We don't have a working kitchenette; although we could grab non-perishables of canned products as well as jars of preserves and whatnots. I'm also determined to transport a whole pack of late-season morels home. On a happy Sunday out with the friends, we finally could satiate our shopping cravings by watching them stock up on groceries at Ballard Farmers Market. Hahaha.

The tourists haven't flooded Ballard Farmers Market because it's a distance away from downtown. But Seattleites flock here to the open-air stalls for its decent choices, less claustrophobic vibe from the Pike Place Market. Well, you ain't gonna find fish and seafood here, but there're meats and vegetables. Those, and flowers at such unbelievably low prices. SIGH. Almost keeled over at how cheap peonies are. I quite like the whites that blush a light pink in the center.

This is how Veraci Pizza does awesome food-trucking.
Their brick and mortar in Seattle has just opened on 35th Ave NE.

The man is pleased to have breakfast and lunch on Sundays at the farmers markets. Good food aplenty! Oof. The man found another pulled pork sandwich to eat. This one's from Sea Breeze Farm that does a whole lot of meats and dairy. We ought to head out to its farm on Vashon Island for dinner at its La Boucherie. It's only a 1.5 hour drive from downtown Seattle. Truly farm-to-table.

Patty Pan Cooperative's quesadillas smelt great sizzling on the grill. Bought a vegetable quesadilla. In the cloudy grey 13°C late morning, the piping hot grilled vegetables and corn tortilla were super welcomed. I have a weakness for sparkling sodas. There're some good bottled options in Singapore now, but of course there're more here. Hurhurhur. Oddly, the sparkling sodas I've been quaffing here hold no more than 11g of sugar. I regretfully give up those that have 30mg of sugar. I'm kinda done with tasting all the ginger beers. It's all about lemonade on this trip. Firefly Kitchens' Lemon-Aid with caraway probiotic brine ain't bad at all.

The man is also on a cookie blitz this trip. He has been eating so many cookies! The gigantic ones. Spotted Pinckney CookiesThey pop up at various farmers markets in WA. I didn't mind one piece of dark chocolate oatmeal, but being an American cookie, even if it's from WA (which makes desserts less sweet than the average Cheesecake Factory uhh crap), it's still too sweet for me. *shudder* They have a 'brown butter brown sugar bourbon spice with Woodinville bourbon'. We packed a whole dozen to-go. :P

Monday, May 30, 2016

Harmony Black

Came across Kindle Unlimited's offer of Craig Schaefer's 'Harmony Black' series. It's all about mysteries, FBI black ops, occult, supernatural, demons and the sort. Like Agents of Shield or X-Files.

It follows FBI agent Harmony Black, who is also an accomplished witch, and her new team Vigilant Lock led by maybe-werewolf Jessie Temple, and includes scientist April Cassidy and young hacker-turned-computer-security expert Kevin. It also introduces Harmony's romantic relationship with her childhood friend and Talbot Cave cop Cody.

Book 1 is titled 'Harmony Black'. It wasn't fantastic, but the plot was arresting enough. Kinda curious to see how it goes. Downloaded Book 2 'Red Knight Falling' too. These are books that I want to read but won't bother keeping. Happy they're 'free'. :P At least this series runs on the narrative of 'one mystery per book'. It's not a continuation, thank goodness. I needn't scream in frustration if Book 3 isn't out now.

Book 1 'Harmony Black' introduced us to Harmony and the team Vigilant Lock. The team dealt with demons and bogeymen, and solved the long-standing mystery of disappearing children in Talbot Cave which occurred like a plague once every few decades. A parallel arc suggested a government conspiracy 'Operation Cold Spectrum', but left it as is till the next book elaborates.

"What Jessie means is," I said, "somebody just put a bomb in Douglas Bredford's trailer, not long after he dropped a name that triggered government back-channel chatter all over the country. There's no way that's a coincidence." 
"It's a hot potato,"April said, "and his dying act was to drop it square in our laps. Lovely." 
"Until we know exactly how Linder is involved, and what Cold Spectrum is, nobody says a word to him," Jessie said. 
April flipped through the pictures, one after the other, like a handful of puzzle pieces that just wouldn't fit.  
"It appears," she said, "we've just become a conspiracy inside a conspiracy. Welcome aboard, Agent Black. Look on the bright side: at least you'll never be bored."

Book 2 'Red Knight Falling' dealt with a banished God in outer space, a satellite named 'Red Knight' that held a warding talisman since 1954, before any known space technology or Sputnik in 1957, secret well-funded organizations, and the egos of billionaires turned talented powerful and wayward wizards.

We hear of Operation Cold Spectrum again, and how the team ran secret investigations and believed their handler-boss SAC Linder Wendt was involved. But nothing further is revealed. Till the next book I suppose. Book 2 hints at Book 3's storyline, which is likely to be another catastrophe befalling earth courtesy of an evil organization The Network, and them co-opting billionaire-wizard Robert Maurius 'Bobby' Diehl to wipe out Vigilant Lock.

"Yes. We crave their obliteration. The entire organization, every trace of their existence, down to their very last operative. And we would like for them to suffer. You will do this for us. Make their destruction a fitting tribute to the kings, and you will be welcomed into our fold." 
Bobby's response was a trembling, furious whisper.  
"With great pleasure." 
"Good," Adam said. "Always remember: we'll be watching."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

To Kedai Makan For Some Chili

At some point, a chilli craving will arise, and I'll need to go drink a bottle of chilli sauce. Sriracha not counted! BUT, there's Kedai Makan up on the Hill. WOOOOHOOO. And I do like their sambal which holds a lot of heat.

Kedai Makan has adopted the Nowait app, making it easy to gauge waiting time and get in line. The app is great for dining at restaurants that don't do reservations. And plenty of Seattle restaurants still don't take reservations. I really like the app. Don't have to mooch around waiting for a table. It'll be so useful in winter.

Got into the virtual line at Kedai Makan before we left the hotel, and halfway in our Lyft car, the text message came in to inform us that we've got a table. Hurrah! However, Nowait only works in US and UK for now, probably with a local number, and you need to be within 10 miles of the restaurant to join the waitlist. Laughed quite hysterically at the 10-mile radius thing. In Singapore, that covers like half the island. Heh! If this app gets to Singapore, it needs to cut it down to like...four miles.

We were curious about the whole mackerel stuffed with rempah (chili paste, lemongrass, galangal) served on rice and kerabu taugeh. But no more stomach space. Also curious about the Malaysian style nasi biryani ayam which promised basmati rice cooked with spices and ghee, but we weren't ready to pay US$14.50 for this version. You know it isn't quite about the price per se. Picked the US$12.50 nasi goreng kambing which was GOOD. It came with kecap manis, curry, sprouts, greens and a fried runny egg. EGG. Yummy. Well, the lamb was tender and lovely. The rice held no wok-hei of course, but it was fine. Asked for a side of sambal and it was properly spicy. Perfect.

The duck egg gado gado was strange. I love the poached duck eggs. They were awesome. The crackers were great, but as far as gado gado goes, this one is a fail. The vegetables were drowned in a gravy that is completely odd, even if this is a re-interpretation. Did they use too much tamarind and lime? It's too salty, too sour, too wet, and there were only four miserable rectangles of tofu. This dish requires a whole lot more tofu!

The restaurant recently started making their own wheat noodles. Yay. That's a selling point to me. Ordered the chili pan mee. You know what, I love this version. It's so much better than what I've tasted back home. Never mind about Kuala Lumpur. Kedai Makan does it so much better. The minced pork used here was properly lean, not like the fatty nonsense at home. The sauces were done well, and the chilli mix was beautifully spicy. The egg, of course, was gigantic and tasty. I didn't take so much of the pork, but I happily slurpped up the noodles.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


I can probably identify only about 20 types of edible fungi growing in the wild with 100% certainty. With berries, I can identify many more. Also, you die slower if you randomly pluck one to taste. :P Well, not really. You could get quite sick from poisonous berries if you eat them in large quantities. But if you're not accidentally stranded or cast in a survival reality show, there's no reason to be eating berries in the wild especially if you're unsure about them.

At the very least, we ought to know never eat mistletoe or holly berries. They're deceptively evil. Those fat Jerusalem cherries that look like tasty tomatoes? AVOID. Don't touch anything from the ivy plants.

I'm not foraging on the trails. Not totally noticing the mushrooms either although morels are still sprouting and fairy ring mushrooms are plentiful. The rest of the mushrooms appear in summer or after heavy rains since it's hot now. Mushrooms have to be cooked before eating.

On many forest trails, I spotted the berries! It isn't exactly the season for berries. But the warmer temperatures have ripened many. I couldn't resist plucking a few off the stems to nibble, like bunchberries and huckleberries. Some tart, some sweet. All were lovely.

One afternoon on yet another trail at Fauntleroy Park, I was pleased to stroll by an overhang of giant bushes of red and yellow berries. YUM. The man was all like "Oh look! Raspberries!" I took a look. NO. He continued with "Blackberries!" Zzzz. These were SALMONBERRIES lah. They're found in the Pacific Northwest and in season from May to July. We trekked through Cumbria and Surrey a few years ago and found the same berries. Because, similar climate. Plucked a few salmonberries, rinsed them, and offered them to the man. He didn't think I would poison him. He gamely ate all. LOL.

Friday, May 27, 2016

'A Rap on Race'

Watched Seattle Repertory Theatre and Spectrum Dance Theater's new work 'A Rap on Race'. Read the book a long time ago, and happy to see it staged and interpreted in dance movements. This 80-minute new work by director and choreographer Donald Byrd, and actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, centers on the 1970 recorded three conversations (totaling seven hours) on race between writer James Baldwin (black, living in exile in France, then 46 years old) and anthropologist Margaret Mead (white, liberal, then 68 years old). Margaret and James have never met prior to this project.

The stage set-up was simple. Split into a loft-like set, the floor was taken by the dancers, the upper level was occupied by the speakers/actors. Donald Byrd plays James Baldwin, and Julie Briskman plays Margaret Mead. All the dancers clad in black leotards and tights. Speech alternated with dance. I wasn't familiar with the music that the movements were set to. Had to google furiously- jazz composer Charles Mingus and his 1963 'The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady'.

What does it mean to disagree to disagree? Why do we have to agree to disagree? Everyone has to pay a price.

I enjoyed the performance immensely. The dance and the lines. Lots of push and pull. Cooperation and coordination, and conflict. Trust issues stood out prominently. The US discussion on race is something I understand academically, but not culturally because I didn't grow up stateside or live here long enough. While the 1970 conversation isn't that ground-breaking—people do talk about the same topics openly too—it's interesting and painful to see how relevant it still is.

I recognize that this discourse on race must still be taken today. (In Singapore too, where many matters or debates about race are veiled with a 'racial harmony' justification.) World affairs and current situation have changed, but some fundamental issues remain. Especially with #BlackLivesMatter and the entire affair of trigger-happy cops, and questionable deaths of African-Americans. Also, listen and check out those lyrics to Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp A Butterfly'.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Discovery Park

It's nice to meet friends for a walk or a run, and chat along the way. You could see it as an optimal use of time, but I see it as quiet time with people I like. Glad that with my closest friends, we can do this, even in hot hot humid Singapore—just slap on mozzie repellent.

Hit the trails on Discovery Park thrice so far. It's a really convenient Seattle park that offers gorgeous views. It's still located within the urban sprawl in the residential estate of Magnolia, across from Ballard. But its proximity right next to the bluffs creates a beautiful space and jogging/walking trails that gives you the feeling of 'getting away from it all'. I love this park!

I definitely like running on trails a lot more than on the treadmill, elliptical or pavement. There's something magical about sprinting through the woods pounding on mud. So instead of a slow hike, run. Clearly demarcated, the trails are more urban than wild. Muddy at most. Loop around the park. The elevation is gentle. Once you hit the lookout point, those views of Puget Sound are glorious.

We always loop down to the beach where the West Point Light stands. It's literally the most western point of Seattle. First lit in 1881, the lighthouse was automated in 1985 and it's still active. From the beach, you'll see the still snow-capped Mount Rainier on the left and the Olympic mountain range on the right. There's so much beauty. No wonder the county is determined to preserve park access via footpaths and trails and not let vehicles cut through.

The beach is where we stop for a long drink and a sandwich. The weather's been marvelous and it's extremely enjoyable to sit under the sun, feel that breeze on our skin, and carry on with the food. There's no shade at the beach, but caps/hats should be worn, so getting some sun in our faces isn't an issue.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sam Choy's Poke

Dunno why I'm obsessed over poke this trip. It's an Hawaiian import and pretty much our version of chirashi-zushi or bara-chirashi. Raw fish salad with or without rice. There isn't a 'right' way to make it. It just has to turn out tasty, and it's all in the seasoning.

I could easily churn this out at home and add on more ingredients, or hop into any Japanese eatery to eat it. But hey, this is great weather. I want to eat poke at the food trucks and delis, outdoors. In Seattle, there's the much raved about newly opened 45th Stop N Shop & Poke Bar. It was GOOD. But I gotta try Sam Choy's Poke to the Max. They've got three food trucks running across Puget Sound and it isn't difficult to catch one at lunch.

Sam Choy's Poke to the Max truck was right there at Westlake Park (off Macy's) for lunch service. Eh, it isn't as though food trucks are cheaper than restaurants. The good ones are definitely not. They average about S$19 for a bowl of something. S$12 if it's just a simple sandwich. I haven't had to use much cash in King County. Even if the smaller stores don't take Amex, there's ApplePay. :P Most food trucks take credit cards anyway. YAYY! Although it's always a tussle whether to tip that additional US$1 or $2 for take-out.

The man has been on this blitz of eating pulled pork sandwiches all over town. He continued with it at lunch. He went for the US$9 portion of 'Big Kahuna Kalua'- a slow-cooked Kālua pulled pork layered with house slaw and namasu (pickled vegetables), green onions, cilantro and wasabi aioli with Filipino bun. He declared this one a winner too. Apparently it isn't difficult to find a good pulled pork sandwich in Cuban or Hawaiian style in King County.

I was there for poke and nothing else. That 20-minute queue in the sun (with a cap) was so worth it. Added an egg and slices of avocado to my US$12 bowl of salmon poke on a mixture of white and brown rice. There were plenty of onions, sea salt, soy, sesame oil, etc. Oddly familiar Asian flavors. Umami aplenty. Ridiculously delicious. I was so pleased.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Shopping for Sportswear

Singapore shops have a really strange perception of customer intelligence. Landlords have an unrealistic perception of how much tenants are willing to pay to secure prime rental spots. I understand if shops have to mark up final prices. But many items are almost three times of US retail prices. That's really annoying. Has globalization not normalized retail prices of some brands?

Shopping online solves the issue, but of course our Customs won't be pleased. Hence we get the S$400 cap per shipment on inbound purchases via post, and they're finding stupid ways to tax us even more on shopping overseas. Not mincing words here because I find it ridiculous for Customs to impose a S$600 cap per person on overseas shopping, which includes gifts from friends or relatives. How on earth do I pay GST on gifts?? WTF. Ask the friends how much my gifts cost? As long as you're going to 'consume' these purchases and gifts in Singapore, technically, you gotta pay GST if you bust S$600. How many analysts did it take to reach that magic number? How about upping it to S$1200? GRRROWWL.

I rarely hit the shops unless it's to buy gifts or try out sizes for sportswear. Singapore is so damn humid that I live in dri-fit and whatever sweat-wicking clothing all day. Shopping in Singapore is unpleasurable. Never mind the crowds, its prices are off-putting. Didn't bother with Niketown in King County. They've upped their prices so much that it matches whatever Singapore stocks. Unless you buy on Finish Line or something. Anyway Nike shoes don't fit me, so I simply tagged along when the man went to look for track shoes. He gagged at the US$225 price tag (excluding sales tax) of the impractical Air Max range (not to be risked on trails and rocks).

Pleased with the US prices at Lululemon. Mostly ordered online since the stocks are better controlled than their physical stocks at the stores. BUT I still went to all three Lululemon stores in Seattle. Heeeeeee. Well I didn't intend to, but I was getting stuff at The North Face and Lululemon was just a few doors down at these locations... Was kinda thrilled when I chanced upon many items at marked-down prices in-store which were in mint condition in my size.