Saturday, November 29, 2008

Restaurant Review: Sushi A-Go-Go

Sushi A-Go-Go
1900 Broadway NY NY
Tel: 212.724.7340

This is a bit late, but better late than never! After our pre-Thanksgiving Day trip to see the Macy's Parade balloons, we hit the streets to satisfy my craving for all things Japanese and came across Sushi A-Go-Go on the way from the Lincoln Center.

Since we weren't that hungry, we skipped the appetizers - but I'll mention that they seemed to have the standard fare that you would expect to see on any Japanese appetizer menu.

For my main course, I ordered the Sushi & Sashimi Tasting ($19.50), which consisted of 1 California Roll, 3 pieces of Tuna sashimi, 3 pieces of Salmon sashimi, 2 pieces of Halibut sashimi, and 5 pieces of sushi.

My other (and better) half ordered, ironically enough, the Half and Half Sushi ($17), which consisted of 1 California Roll with Tobiko, 3 pieces of Tuna sushi, and 3 pieces of Yellowtail sushi.

For dessert, we split the Decadent Chocolate A Go-Go ($8).

Or in plain English, the Molten Chocolate Cake with Green Tea Ice-Cream. This is probably what we liked most about our dinner.

The sushi and sashimi was decent - above average, but by no means earth shatteringly great. I was disappointed that the sushi/sashimi entrees did not include a choice of either a salad or miso soup - in my experience, that is the norm at most Japanese restaurants. If I worked or lived in the area, I could see myself coming here frequently for a quick Japanese fix. If that is not your situation, unless you're already doing something else in the neighborhood (like watching an IMAX movie or seeing a show at Lincoln Center), I would not recommend coming here purely for the sake of eating here as there are better places that are similarily priced.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Behind The Scenes: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Balloons

There's a darker side to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Balloons that they don't want you or your kids to know about.

Ronald McDonald and Hello Kitty harbor a secret love for one another that only comes out the day before the Thanksgiving Day parade. Ronald indeed is lovin' it judging from the collapsed state that Hello Kitty is in.

And after rampaging through the streets of Manhattan, Shrek has finally been brought to task. Interestingly enough, Shrek seems to be happy with his situation. Or perhaps he just has his eye on a tasty looking orange snack.

And to think that parents bring their kids to this event! Shame on them!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Balloon Inflation with Pictures

Here are some pictures from the Macy's Balloon inflation for tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day Parade as posted previously! The viewing started at 3pm and ends at 10pm. The crowd was huge with lots of parents bringing their kids in strollers. Luckily, we were able to whiz past by them with our quick feet but there were still lots of people in our way. They were still inflating a new balloons including some new ones debuting this year (Keith Haring's Heart Balloon, Horton the elephant). I wish I could see Hello Kitty (first flight in 2007) but it was still only partially inflated by the time I past by. Sadly, I didn't even recognize Snoopy in his aviator outfit (first flight in 2006). He looks really cute in the signage.

Here's the main signage with Pikachu in the background.

Ronald McDonald!

Smurfs is making a debut this year! Finally, I don't know what took so long!

Another new balloon - Buzz Lightyear from ToyStory! To infinity and beyond...

Who can resist Kermit the Frog?

Here's Shrek! His eyes made it look like he was staring at everyone.

Watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on channel CBS tomorrow! Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone! gobble gobble.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Banana Mini-Muffins

I baked a small batch of banana mini-muffins over the weekend. It was absolutely delicious! (Even Jander ate some and he HATES bananas. The bananas made the muffins moist and I couldn't even taste it. Note to self, I can put more bananas in the next batch!)

You may ask why I baked mini-muffins instead of full-sized muffins or even a loaf of bread... Well the answer is simple, I only own a mini-muffin tray so that's what I made! Here's a picture of my (half-eaten) treats.

For the complete recipe, click here, courtesy of All Recipe. Since my muffins are so small, I only baked it for 20 minutes and I sprinkled crushed walnuts on the top! It also tasted better when I dribbled some maple syrup on the top right before baking.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Restaurant Review: Republic

Republic Restaurant
37 Union Square West NYC

If you're in the mood for noodles or Asian-inspired dishes and you happen to be in the Union Square area, then you might want to eat at Republic. This contemporary restaurant offers noodles as its main dish (obvious in the website and signage), however there were more non-noodle options on the menu. Tables were reminiscent of park benches and arranged like a school cafeteria...wooden benches at picnic style tables with cubbies underneath the table for our coats and purses. Parties of two were seated with other strangers, so groups of 4 are optimal.

Here are some pictures of the food we ate for dinner: seafood dumplings, chicken with noodles in coconut broth and calamari. The seafood dumpling were alright, nothing special. The sauce had a nice wasabi (spicy) flavor. Jander was not too impressed with the coconut broth in his noodle soup. And we both agreed that the calamari was over-fried. But the chili dipping sauce was tasty. Overall, we would probably eat here again but there are plenty of alternatives in the area to go first.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My recipe for Chinese Sticky Rice with Pork Sausage

If you are looking to eat Chinese comfort food, here is a wonderful dish that I recently learned how to make. Growing up, my dad would always make this during the winter months. It was hearty and flavorful. Best of all, all the ingredients are mixed in the rice. I didn't need to grab any other food from the table because it was all in one dish. While most people serve this as a side-dish for a multi-course meal...I always get full from just eating a large portion of the rice!

Before I began to attempt to cook this dish, I consulted different recipes on the Internet. The best one coming from epicurious. However, I changed the cooking style and eliminated some ingredients when I made my dish.

  • 3 cups Chinese sweet rice (short-grain) - May be substituted for 2 cups of sweet rice and 1 cup of Jasmine rice if you do not like it too sticky
  • 1 cup Chinese dried black mushroom
  • 5 links of Chinese sausages (6 to 8 oz total)
  • 1/2 cup of baby dried shrimp
  • 1 cup of Chinese vegetable head (may be substituted for whole chestnuts)
  • 2 tablespoons of Asian sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 1/3 cup of Chinese rice vinegar (optional, may be substituted for medium-dry Sherry)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion greens (optional as garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper (optional)

Special Equipment: a rice cooker and a sharp knife

  1. Start by soaking the mushrooms in water overnight. When you are ready to start cooking, soak the dried shrimp in bowl of water to clean. Set aside.
  2. Put the 3 cups of rice into your rice cooker. Soak with tap water for 30 minutes. Then put 3 cups of water into the bowl and start to cook the rice. (The ratio of water to rice is about 1:1 You may put 3 1/4 cups of water but not more otherwise the rice will turn out soggy.)
  3. Start to prep the ingredients for the filling: Drain the mushrooms and squeeze excess liquid. Rinse mushrooms, discard the stems and coarsely chop into tiny cubes. Remove the casing from the pork sausage and dice them into small cubes. Repeat with the Chinese vegetable; remove the hard exterior of the vegetable with a knife and then dice into small cubes. They should all be in similar size.
  4. Heat up a pan with sesame oil. Add the Chinese vegetable and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add in the mushroom and continue to stir-fry. Next add the pork sausage and dried shrimp. Stir in the dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice vinegar. Add salt and white paper for taste. Continue to heat until all ingredients are cooked through. Remove from heat.
  5. By this time, the rice in your rice cooker should have finished cooking. If not, wait at least 15 minutes before continuing. The rice should be as dry as possible.
  6. Transfer the filling ingredients from the pan and slowly stir into the rice cooker. Start by putting half of the filling into the rice cooker and add more while mixing it with the rice. Stir from the bottom to distribute ingredients. Cover the rice cooker and keep it in the 'warm' position for another 10 minutes before serving.
  7. Garnish with the scallions before serving. Eat immediately while hot!

Notes: I leave out the salt since the pork sausage is salty enough. Some recipes require cooking the rice in chicken broth for additional flavor but I don't think that is necessary. Feel free to eyeball the filling ingredients - add more or less according to your taste. I like pork sausage so I add 5 links but 3-4 would also be fine. I've also seen some recipes which include bamboo shoots which would also work for the extra crunch. Jander suggested that I do this but this is the same person that wants me to separate out the scallions...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Captains of Industry: Magic Johnson - Part 2

Continued from yesterday's Part 1.

Magic Johnson's sense for business also stemmed from his family. When he was growing up, he was the youngest and always picked on by his brothers. Unfortunately he was also taller than his brothers so the "hand-me-down" clothes were always short on him! He also told a story about his first negotiating obstacle. Around the time he was a teenager, his mom decided that the family would change religion and become a Seventh Day Adventist. This required going to church on Saturdays. However his basketball games were always on Saturday so he would miss them. He talked to his mom about changing back to his old church which held services on Sunday. Of course his dad and brothers were in agreement because they didn't want to miss watching the games either. After a month of back and forth, his mom agreed to his terms.

I believe the main reason for his business entrepreneurship stemmed from his childhood years, growing up poor in a racially diverse town. He always wanted to help people and give them a chance to do something different with their lives. Throughout the interview, he spoke about his calling to help Urban America. After his diagnosis of HIV, he went through a depression period. His wife supported him but also helped him to snap out of his depression by kicking him out of the house (literally) and telling him not to come back home until he "became the man that she married." He always knew that business was in his blood and he also recognized that densely populated urban communities were ripe for commercial and residential development. He partnered with major brands like Starbucks (of which he's the only outside partner), 24 Hour Fitness Centers and T.G.I. Fridays to lead a major economic push in these urban communities. In his partnership with Starbucks, he talked about removing the scones from the baked goods and offering baked goods this the community would actually eat...eliminating the elevator music and playing Jazz. It wasn't the $4 cup of java that he felt that people were opposed to, but the lack of customization for the people he felt were customers in urban neighborhoods.

He also answered questions were taken from the audience. The most poignant one came from an 8 year old boy named Ian. He wanted to know if Magic preferred to be a basketball player or a businessman. The answer? A businessman because he has helped changed more people's lives. This is a man who wants no part of politics (dismissing the idea to run for mayor of Los Angeles). He also is perfectly content with his role in basketball which is part-owner of the LA Lakers. Although if asked to become the NBA Commissioner, he wouldn't say NO. But it is refreshing to listen to someone talk earnestly about his charitable work and who uses his talent to help other people in his community. Bravo!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Captains of Industry: Magic Johnson - Part 1

Last night, I attended the Captains of Industry series talk sponsored by Business Week and held at the 92nd Street Y. It was the first in the series for the season. Previous honorees included GE's Jeffrey Immelt, Sun's Scott McNealy, HP's Carly Fiorina and Amazon's Jeff Bezos. They are certainly "Captains" in their own right, but Magic Johnson???

Prior to the event, my only recognition of this man is of an athlete and HIV spokesperson. I knew little of him but can only bow in awe of his superstardom. The setting was intimate. The auditorium at the 92nd Street Y can seat several hundred people but many seats were sadly empty. Magic entered on stage after a brief introduction by Business Week's editor-in-chief Stephen Adler. Stephen told a brief story about Magic's first meeting with the LA Lakers. The management team took him out to a fancy dinner to negotiate his contract. They ordered a fish dish which Magic never even heard of...and proceeded to offer him $400,000 a year. He did not have a manager to negotiate on his behalf (I think he was only 19 at the time) but he was business-savy enough to know how to negotiate. He politely turned down the offer and also returned his fish order back to the kitchen. The LA Lakers were surprised by this young man's negotiating skills and continued to woo him with a higher salary - up to $500,000. Whoo hoo! In the late 1970's that was considered a large sum of money.

The interview went back and forth between Magic's basketball career and his business. I was impressed with the laid-back and honest answers that he provided in the hour long talk. While it is without question that he is a talented basketball player, he always had aspirations to become a business person. While growing up with 9 siblings in a small-town in Michigan, he was exposed to the hardships of life from an early age. He had to work different jobs as a young boy including one where he had to clean an office building of 7 floors. He would indulge in cleaning the top floor of the building which contained the offices of the CEO. Magic recounted how he would sit in the leather chair in the office (which was a little too small for his body) and play the role of the CEO by pressing the intercom button and calling for his secretary for coffee and newspaper. He would do this for two hours everyday. His advice to young people? "You have to imagine yourself in your dream job. Dream big."

....To be continued in tomorrow's Part 2.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Playing Bears

A family that lives on the outskirts of West Milford , NJ decided to build a sturdy, colorful playground for their 3 and 4 year old sons.

They lined the bottom with smooth-stone gravel all around to avoid knee scrapes and other injuries. They finished building it one Friday evening and were very pleased with the end product.

The following morning, the mom was about to wake up the boys and have them go out to play in their new play center. This is what she saw from the upstairs window:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Beauty Sample Sale

Tonight I went to the Beauty Sample Sale hosted by Pretty City and sponsored by Shape Magazine. What is the Beauty Sample Sale, you ask? It's a a beauty bonanza bringing together the best names in beauty, all under one roof.

This was an awesome event to attend. Guests received sample complimentary beauty services courtesy of the world's prettiest brands, from hair care to skin care from cosmetics to cosmeceuticals. Oh and did I mention the free goodie bag full of sample products? We were also treated to free drinks (midori sours) and appetizers (mini cupcakes and choco truffles) at the bar.

The cost of this event is $10, but Shape Magazine offered a free registration code for its readers so I was able to attend the event at no cost. There were lots of people at this event, mostly women of course. The best table was a Spinning Wheel where guests received prizes based on the number on the wheel. Cool prizes included a white Shape vest, large size samples of night cream and shampoos, Venus razors, a Shape measuring spoon and light blue Shape knapsacks.

My only complaint of the evening was that I waited in a long and confusing registration line but it wasn't necessary to receive the free gift bag (filled with even more goodies). I would recommend going early to avoid the crowds. Here are some pictures from the event:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Restaurant Review: Yamaguchi

63 Main St
Port Washington, NY 11050

To some, Yamaguchi is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chugoku region of Honshu island. To those in the know, it's a crazy good Japanese restaurant located just steps from the LIRR in Port Washington, NY.

After months of hearing about this great place from our friends Sorry-hime and You-sama, we were finally able to hook up with them to see for ourselves what was so fantastic about this place.

To start off, we had kaki age (fried oysters)
and beef tataki.

The beef tataki was served with some kind of ponzu dipping sauce, while the kaki age was served with both BBQ and tartar dipping sauce options. They were both comparable to what we've eaten at other Japanese places.

We followed this with nasu hasami age:

You're probably wondering "Well, what the heck is that?" Nasu hasami age is fried eggplant stuffed with crabmeat and fish paste, served in a special sauce with ginger. Before I say anything else, let me clearly state that I-HATE-EGGPLANT. I dislike everything about it - the color, the taste, the texture - it's pure UGH! And yet, the nasu hasami age was one of dishes I liked the most at Yamaguchi. So I'll amend my hate statement to I-HATE-EGGPLANT-EXCEPT-FOR-YAMAGUCHI'S.

For our main course, we had 2 orders of the Chef's special. The special is $40 per order and comes with 1 sushi roll - it is not listed on the menu. We also ordered some uni (sea urchin) on the side since Sorry-hime and You-sama are uni crazed!
Keep in mind that since we ordered TWO(2) specials, the amounts of sushi and sashimi are roughly doubled. I couldn't name everything in a technically correct manner, so what you see is what you get! I will, however, call attention to the ike nestled underneath the clam and the scallops that you cannot see in this picture behind the clam.
Our orders came with an unagi (eel) roll and a scallion & fatty toro (tuna) roll.

The fish was some of the freshest we've had in New York City and the menu was reasonably priced - slightly upscale, but not overly so. But the real endorsement comes from my fellow blogger. She normally refuses to eat anything raw, but she happily scarfed down everything. I think she's close to making a real breakthrough and soon I won't be ashamed to be seen in a Japanese restaurant with her!

I would definitely recommend this place and hope to return soon (*psst* Sorry-hime!).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation

This year, I'm going to go watch the balloons inflate for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! Since 1927, giant character balloons are brought to life in the streets around the American Museum of Natural History.

The action starts around 4pm on Thanksgiving Eve on 77th & 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Regular attendees recommend getting there around 5pm and the event ends at 8pm.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
4:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Central Park West and Columbus Avenue on 77th and 81st Streets

Get more behind-the-scenes info about the preparation work that goes into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:

Building the Floats

Creating a Balloon

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

For those visiting New York City during the holiday season, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a once in a lifetime event that should not be missed! I've only seen this show once but I know many parents who have taken their young children to the show. With that said, it is enjoyable for people of all ages. Where else will you see a mixture of Rockette dancing, ice-skating, flying reindeers, and new this year....wait for it....camels! If someone can explain to me why a Rockette should be dancing next to camels, please let me know. Unless it is in the Nativity scene. Okay, that makes more sense. Here is the formal description of the show from the website:

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world famous Radio City Rockettes is an unparalleled show featuring the Rockettes' signature eye high kicks and precision choreography in multiple show stopping numbers including: the legendary "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," and "New York at Christmas," a dynamic holiday celebration. Families will be delighted as Santa flies high above the crowd and touched as the true meaning of Christmas is brought to life in the awe-inspiring "Living Nativity."

This legendary Spectacular has dazzled and inspired over 65 million people for more than 75 years and continues to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Click on the image above for ticketing information.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

DIY Wedding Program Fans

This is my next DIY project: a fan that can be used as a ceremony program at weddings or other special occasions. I think this is a cute alternative to the traditional wedding booklet. While I wished I had done this for my wedding, this is more appropriate for spring or summer weddings or if the theme is a beach or English garden party. The program itself is quite easy to make - consisting of 6 'blades' printed on cardstock paper and then cutting out and assembling with an eyelet or ribbon.

Materials (per fan)

2 sheets of 110 lb cardstock 8.5x11 in size
eyelet or brad or ribbon/tassle depending on how you want to assemble the fan

Other Materials

scissors or ruler and knife-cutter
Optional: hole-puncher


Open the template document in MS Word and personalize the information with the details of your wedding ceremony. (Post a comment with your email address if you're interested in the template)

Optional: Select a clip art or image and copy onto the template. Make sure to select the image behind the text so that the wording can still show through. This is a wonderful way to enliven your ceremony with lovely details!


Feed the cardstock through the printer and print. Cut out the pieces using the knife-cutter and ruler on the straight edges. And I would recommend using the scissor for the curved part of the 'blade.' Use a hole-puncher to make a hole on the bottom of the blade and assemble using a brad or ribbon. If you are using an eyelet, you can skip using the hole-puncher.

That's it! Repeat the directions for each fan and then sit back and enjoy your beautiful programs!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chocolate Show New York 2008

From, Three days of chocolate tasting, lectures & presentations!

Are you passionate about chocolate? Or do you just really think it’s fun?

If you can answer “yes” to either question, make sure you schedule at least one day in November for the The 10th Annual Chocolate Show. Or, spend all three strolling through more than 40,000 square feet devoted to chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate, at Pier 94, West 54th Street at the West Side Highway, in New York City—a new, more spacious location.
Visitors to the show will have the opportunity to sample prestige American and International chocolates and attend more than 65 demonstrations given by top pastry chefs and chocolatiers. Chefs and authors will be on hand to sign their cookbooks (every year, it seems as if every book every written about chocolate is for sale at the show). To celebrate the 10th anniversary, there will be a week of mini events leading to the kick-off chocolate fashion show that traditionally opens the festivities on Thursday night.

The cost for immersing yourself in all this chocolate:
$28.00 Per Adult
Held at Pier 94, 54th Street and West Side Highway, New York City
For ticketing information, click on the image below.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oatmeal-Butterscotch Cookies

My coworker recently baked me cookies (what a sweetie!) and they were delicious! She confessed that they came from a Cindy McCain recipe called Oatmeal-Butterscotch cookies. Allegedly, the recipe is copied from a Hershey's website but let's not talk about stealing and lying on this blog. Cindy McCain submitted her "recipe" against Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies and Bill Clinton's Oatmeal Cookies...and in an election with 8,000 submitted votes, she won with 54% of the votes!

Click here to read more about the cooking controversy. Scroll down for the easy-to-make recipe.
Tip: Use the Old Fashioned Quaker Oats for best texture. Avoid the Quick 1-Minute brand for cookie recipes!

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1-2/3 cups butterscotch chips

1. Heat oven to 375F.
2. In a large bowl beat the butter or margarine, granulated sugar and brown sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well.
3. In a medium-size bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir until blended. Stir in oats and butterscotch chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
4. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Random thoughts while watching 2008 campaign coverage

I'm sitting here watching 2008 campaign coverage on TV when the news takes a commercial break. I don't really pay attention to commercials so I'm multitasking (Facebook, blogging, etc) when the part of my mind that's paying attention to the commercials hears:

"Flomax may cause...[blah blah blah]...and reductions in semen."

After I hear that, I'm pretty much thinking "W-T-F?!?!?"

I'm curious, so I go to the Flomax website to see what their website discloses about the side effects. In the sexual side effects section, it says that up to 18.1% of men who take the higher dosage (0.8mg) experience abnormal ejaculation - defined as:
  • Not being able to ejaculate
  • Decreased amounts of ejaculate
  • Retrograde ejaculation - ejaculate enters the bladder instead of leaving the body through the penis. This problem is usually painless and harmless. Men with this problem may notice cloudy urine after sexual intercourse.
This probability decreases to a mere (mere!) 8.4% if you take the lower dosage (0.4mg).

So here's a question for you - if you had BPH would you want to take Flomax to treat it if 8.4-18.1% of the time you'll experience abnormal ejaculation? Or would you rather suck it up when it comes to the urinating problems that result from BPH? Without having experienced BPH myself (or knowing anyone who has), personally it sounds like I would rather deal with having to go to the bathroom a lot...

On a side note, watching the campaign coverage on CBS in High Definition is really nice since they use the side bars that aren't visible in Standard Definition to show the Democratic/Republican status of the states and their associated electoral votes.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Making the Double Happiness decoration

Today I went to a bridal shower and we were making arts and crafts! Since the bride needed Double Happiness decorations for her house, her bridesmaids decided that we would make them for her! We were given white paper, red tissue paper, red/gold glitter and gluestick to work with. Armed with a template of the Double Happiness symbol, I drew the outline and decided to fill it with pieces of red tissue paper. It was very simple to do (although it was quite tiring to rip and roll up small pieces of tissue paper).

Here is what it looked like half way through my gluing process. The final result looks wonderful. I can't wait to see it on her wedding day!

Click here to read about the history of the Double Happiness symbol in Chinese weddings.

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