Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food Shoot: Cooking with pumpkins!

Pumpkin pie is not the only thing you can make with a pumpkin... Expand your cooking skills and think about Calzones, pumpkin pie tarts and lasagna! That's what we are videoing today !

Photographer/Videographer: Steve Giralt
Food Stylist: Liz Jezrow
Assistant Food Stylist: "Lauren"
Assistants: John Duarte and Susan Lee

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Photo of the Day: Random Note in the Subway

This was found on the floor of a "L" subway car in NYC.
Admittedly, not the best photo I've taken on a moving subway car, but you can make out the words in the love note. :D

San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy New York

Unfortunately, I was away and didn't have access to the Internet... if you did not know... the San Gennaro festival is happening now until Sept. 26, 2010 in Little Italy, New York...


Sept. 16 – The Feast of San Gennaro (aka San Gennaro Festival) be here again starting Sept. 16 through Sept. 26th. The festival has been in Little Italy for more than 80 years and every year, particularly on the weekends, the streets are jammed pack with tourists and residents alike who walk on Mulberry Street to participate in the festivities - cannoli eating competition, dining at the cafe/restaurants, eating at the sausage booths and more. So, bring your cash and enjoy the Italian festival in Little Italy.

Excerpts from the San Gennaro Website are below:

"... more than one-million people from the four corners of the globe to the streets of Little Italy to participate in the annual Salute to the Patron Saint of Naples.

Although this is an annual celebration of faith, the Feast of San Gennaro is known the world over for its festive atmosphere, an 11-day event featuring religious processions and colorful parades, free musical entertainment every day, a wide variety of ethnic food delicacies, charming restaurants and cafes and even a world-famous cannoli-eating competition! The central focus of the celebration takes place every September 19th, the official Saint Day when a celebratory Mass is held in Most Precious Blood Church, followed immediately by a religious procession in which the Statue of San Gennaro is carried from its permanent home in the church through the streets that comprise Little Italy."

"This Feast of San Gennaro holds a special place in the place of Italian people everywhere,” says Joseph Mattone, President of Figli di San Gennaro, Inc. "It is a festive period of faith and redemption, a time for remembrance and reconciliation, and a time for celebration. The delicious food, the free musical entertainment that reflects Italian-American culture and heritage are all there. The Feast brings the world to Little Italy and Little Italy to the world.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free 2 Year "Time Out" Subscription anyone?

Ok, first, since its not something that I am offering, but rather informing the public about this offer -- i must CMA -- and say -- "apply at your own risk" - is free a good thing?!?!

The Chicken Craze in New York City - Hill Country Chicken (Fried)

Photo taken late night at Mad for Chicken (K-town) with ambient light
by Susan Lee

Bok! Bok! Bok! The chicken are coming! The chicken are coming! Ok, I admit, that was a bit corny - but really, there are so many fast-food chicken establishments opening up in New York City that its just a bit -- well, overwhelming... First it was Mad For Chicken (or formerly known as Bon Chon), then there was KyoChon, then the opening of the real Bon Chon -- all of these chicken establishments are part of the Korean Fried Chicken craze (or as my friends call it -- the KFC, not to be confused with American Classic Sanders KFC) ... Prior to these establishments, there were other fried chicken restaurants that didn't get as much fame as the KFC craze -- such as Atomic Wings, Hooters, Baden Baden (Korean fried chicken in K-town), or "Something "King" in Harlem . Fried Chicken isn't a new food type, rather, people are beginning to popularize it. And just in time, Hill Country decided to extend outside of their BBQ realm and enter into the Fried Chicken business --- Hill Country Chicken!

Hill Country Chicken held their private grand opening party last night, celebrating the opening of their store on 25th and Broadway and held its public grand opening today. My sources say (I like how I can say that since it was only one friend that just told me about the situation) -- the lines were extremely long today -- which can be expected since its opening day!

So what will make this place special? Since I haven't actually tasted it -- here is a quick review of the interesting finds I see on the menu!
  • You can choose your own part of the chicken -- FRIED -- breast, thigh, drum, wing ($1.75 to $5.50)
  • Fire N Ice Pickles? $0.50 - wonder what that is?
  • Slice of pie? Pie Cup? medium or large pie? ) ($3 to $40)
  • Free refills on fountain soda (boylans!), ice tea and lemonade ($2-$3.50)
  • Milkshakes, ice cream floats -- yikes, gluttony! ($5)
  • BEER -- woah, what is this 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat beer I see or a Moo thunder Stout? ($6)
Aside from the chicken, you can also order sandwiches (fried chicken, chickwich, hill country club etc.... Its a very interesting menu... Will have to visit it to see what I think and to provide my review..

Hill Country Chicken is located at: 1123 Broadway (corner of 25th). Its open daily from 12 pm to 11 pm - call 212. 257.6446 or check out their website -

Happy Eating!

Behind the Scenes of a Food Shoot

Things I realized as I assisted on this shoot ... A food shoot can run more smoothly if you have the right people doing the prop styling, food styling and allowing the photographer to be ... the photographer ...

I have had shoots when I am all three and it is too stressful to manage three jobs when all you should be doing is photographing the food. This usually occurs when budgets are small ! So this food shoot was certainly a refreshing change of pace and hope my future food shoots will be like this one!

Mental notes:

  • Ideal shooting day - 4-5 plates; 8 is a bit excessive; and well 10 - expect a long day.
  • Larger budget - allows for more props, more skilled people working on set.
  • Smaller budget - what do you have in your cupboards to make this work;?

For the love of food photography! yippee!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sept. 14 - Malaysian Street Fair from 6:30 - 10:00 pm in the Meat Packing District

Below is the press-release for the Malaysian Night Market in the Meat Packing District

August 30, 2010, New York - Malaysia Kitchen for the World, a campaign launched by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) to promote Malaysian cuisine and restaurants in the New York City metropolitan area, in partnership with LUCKYRICE, an integrated lifestyle brand and consumer guide to the Asian culinary world, is hosting the ultimate street food celebration: a festive Malaysian Night Market featuring classic Malaysian hawker foods by local restaurants. The event occurs Tuesday, September 14 from 6:30pm to 10:00pm in the Chelsea Triangle of the Meatpacking District on 14th St. and 9th Ave.

With colorful tents, umbrellas and lanterns inspired by the open-air markets of Kuala Lumpur and Penang, the Malaysian Night Market in the Meatpacking District will offer an array of traditional Malaysian street grub. From roti canai to curry laksa and nasi lemak (a tasty rice dish served with spicy curry chicken or beef rendang), offerings draw upon Malaysian cuisine's Malay, Chinese and Indian influences. Participants include Betel, Café Asean, Fatty Crab, Laut, New Malaysia, Nyonya, Spice Market, and the upcoming Asian restaurant with consultants Todd English and Ian Chalermkittichai.

Besides delicious street food, the event will feature engaging Malaysian cultural dances on a dedicated stage. All food will be on sale for $4 to $8.

The location, the Chelsea Triangle, is an outdoor plaza situated on 14th St. between 9th Ave. and Hudson St., at the tip of the trendy Meatpacking District. The plaza faces high-end fashion retail stores and restaurants, and will be bustling with trendsetters and fashionistas in town for Fashion Week.

About Malaysia Kitchen for the World

Malaysia Kitchen for the World is a global initiative of the Malaysian government that aims to educate and inform consumers about Malaysian cuisine and Malaysian restaurants throughout the world. The New York campaign seeks to boost interest among American food lovers to try Malaysian cuisine and visit Malaysian restaurants in the New York metropolitan area as well as in other locations in the United States. The program also seeks to facilitate local chefs and restaurateurs to introduce Malaysian cuisine at their establishments. Visit for more information.


The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) is Malaysia's national trade promotion agency. Established in March 1993 as a statutory agency under the Ministry of International Trade Industry (MITI), MATRADE is responsible for assisting Malaysian companies to succeed in the international market by developing and promoting Malaysia's exports to the world.

About LUCKYRICE Festival

From rich online content to live events, LUCKYRICE aims to be a consumer guide to the Asian culinary world. The inaugural LUCKYRICE Festival, an 11-day celebration of Asian food and culinary culture around New York City, launched successfully in April 2010.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Photo of the Day: Yarn Covered Bike

How much time do you think it took to cover this bike with yarn? Probably a little too much time!

Found on Elizabeth street between Grand and Broome.

-- Mobile upload

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Photo of the Day: Remembering September 11 and a Surprising Night for Me!

Everyone probably remembers where they were on September 11, 2001...

The image above is a photo of the lights representing the Twin Towers in SoHo

and ...

Unfortunately, as I was taking this photo -- I was nearly arrested.

Some say its part of the territory of being a photojournalist
(cause we all want stories to write about -- just not about ourselves!),

but, let's just say -- my record is still clean. Phew!

Below is proof of the cop car that nearly made the arrest.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New York Fashion Night Out 2010 -- Part of a Global Fashion Night Across the World: Tonight - 09/10/10 - in New York -- Starting at 6 PM tonight!

Want to find out who the biggest fashion names are today?... find out who is participating in it tonight ! You don't have to be a model to participate -- everyone can share in the fashion party tonight!

Thanks to Vogue -- Fashion Night Out is happening across the world -- United States -- Spain -- Russia -- China -- Greece -- Japan -- Portugal -- Germany -- India -- Italy -- Taiwan -- Turkey -- Australia -- United Kingdom -- France -- South Korea ...

GOAL: Get everyone out and SHOP! Reinvigorate the retail market , revitalize the fashion industry, and ring the cash registers! -- and lets not forget, BRING ON THE FUN!

There are a lot of stores throwing a big bash! Food, Drinks, Music -- all for the fun of having a Fashion NIGHT out... So check out this website and tailor your own Fashion Night Out with your friends! It's just not the retail stores, the party is everywhere -- restaurants, hair salons, ice cream shops, photography places... everywhere... so check out this site... and tailor your night to your fashion sensibilities!

UPDATE: Check out this article from Reuters for more information.

Primehouse Steakhouse Burger

Primehouse: Steakhouse Burger

I recently dined at Primehouse with an ex-colleague of mine and he mentioned that their burgers were really good. So, guess what I order? The burger of course. He mentioned he ordered the Bacon & Blue Cheese Burger previously and it was incredible (because of the bacon!). I am not a fan of Blue Cheese and can not imagine it on a burger, so I decide to order the Steakhouse burger. The steakhouse burger is your classic burger with cheese, however, Primehouse likes to dress it up with their seasoned house made steak sauce topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms.

For $15, the Primehouse Steakhouse Burger comes with fries or a side salad and with a variety of cheese selections (gruyere, american, swiss, etc). The burger you see in front of you -- is the Primehouse Steakshouse Burger with Gruyere cheese and a side salad.

Once it arrives to the table, I'm amazed at the "hunk-i-ness" of the burger. Yes, the back-yard thick bbq burgers! I almost immediately reach for a mushroom to taste -- initial reaction -- ooh, salty. That initial taste did not bode well for the rest of the meal. After placing the tomato, the lettuce and the bun on top of the burger -- I had another bite - still salty. The burger and the bun was tasty, but the combination of the mushrooms made the burger just a bit too salty for my liking. I thought about sending it back to the kitchen -- but didn't. If that's how they serve it, that's how they serve it.

So for my round-up review for the burger, a big thumbs down. For $15, I can get a better burger for a third of the price at Shake Shack and the Burger Joint... Or, for a slightly less expensive burger, but same quality, I will go back to one of my favorite burger places in the city -- 5 Napkin Burger!

There is still one burger place I have yet to try -- Minetta Tavern... one of these days, I will meet you there Minetta burger! In the meantime, happy eating!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Caught my Eye: Ansel Adams Trust Suing Man for Selling Prints from his Garage Sale Purchase

Recall my prior posting of Rick Norsigian who unknowingly bought a box of Ansel Adams negatives for $45 at a garage sale over 10 years ago? and recently realized it may be worth more than $200 million? According to PDN, Rick is currently selling prints and posters from the 65 glass negatives through his web site As a result, Rick is being sued by The Ansel Adams Publishing Trust, which owns the copyright to Ansel Adams' work and trademark. The filed suit is to stop Rick from selling prints made from the negatives and the suit asserts that the following has been violated: trademark infringement, false advertising, false endorsement and violation of Adams’ right of publicity.

For more information or to read PDN's article, click here.

Dragon Beard Candy in New York City, Chinatown - 2000 year old Chinese candy for your tasting!

Dragon Beard Candy - oh, how I love thee... :D If you can't tell what "it" is by the picture -- well you would think it looks like a cocoon -- but its not -- its a Chinese candy called Dragon Beard Candy. Dragon beard candy is the Chinese version of cotton candy -- spun sugar made to long beard-like strands that is wrapped around a mixture of crushed peanuts and sesame flavoring, though at times I recall tasting coconut... but I could be wrong. Dragon Beard Candy was said to have been first made for the Chinese emperors more than 2,000 years ago!

It has been a long time since I've seen someone make Dragon Beard Candy and I was fortunate to have come upon this candy maker in Chinatown. Growing up in Los Angeles, I remember seeing Dragon Beard Candy being made at the entrances/exits of Chinese supermarkets and I would always be entranced by it -- not able to remove my eyes from the hands of the dragon beard candy maker. I also remember persuading my family members, though not successful at times, to buy them for me on occasion. But the taste of it made it all the more worthwhile when I had them. Yes, I remember the taste and the consistency of the candy -- with the first touch of it feeling soft; then as it was placed in my mouth -- the sugar strands quickly melted ...and as I begin to chew on the candy it sort of sticks to your back molars -- however, its not as sticky as chewing on salt-water taffy, but the texture of that chewiness is the same... except, with the dragon beard candy, the spun sugar strands, the peanuts, the sesame flavoring -- all of it begins to melt in your mouth at once. Oh, the delicious memory!

So, without saying, I had to buy some to relive my childhood memory and to share it with my non-Chinese friends. For a box of six, it was $3.00 -- and I don't know if this is reasonable or not -- since its the only cart I've seen in New York making and selling it! It was a neat experience witnessing my friends eating it -- for them, the didn't know what to expect -- but they all enjoyed it . . .

Where can you find the Dragon Beard Candy Cart? I found the cart as I was walking east on Canal towards Bowery. The cart was stationed outside of the Citibank, between Elizabeth and Mott Street.

Note: After the candy is made, you have to eat it almost immediately, otherwise, it gets hard. You an try microwaving it when you get home, but I can't guarantee if that works or not!

For more info on Dragon Beard Candy, you can read wikipedia's description of it.

The candy is made by boiling partially solidified sugar or a plain saturated and maltose solution until it just reaches the stage and then leaving it to chill. The resulting solid, which is elastic, is formed into a torus and then repeatedly pulled and folded over, doubling the number of strands after each repetition. While the candy is being folded it is kept covered in toasted glutinous flour, in order to keep the strands from sticking together.

  • The finished beard is cut up into small pieces and then usually wrapped around crushed peanuts. The candy is to be eaten immediately after manufacture, although it will keep for up to six minutes in heat.

    Traditionally the candy is made from sugar and maltose syrup, although recipes based on corn syrup are now used in the United States.

    It is common for street vendors of dragon's beard candy to carry out the folding process at their stall, which attracts customers fascinated by the process as much as by a desire to purchase the candy.

If you're curious about how its made, below are two youtube videos created by Peter Pang, each 6 minutes long showing you how Dragon Beard Candy is made. Personally, I would just buy the candy from the candy maker -- but its still neat to watch them make it. For a faster clip, watch the third video posting below - 3 minutes. JUST TURN YOUR MUTE BUTTON ON.

Excellent Pork Chop House in New York Chinatown

Excellent Pork Chop House:
Pork Chop Over Rice

When you're in Chinatown and have to eat fast -- you can be sure to get your food quick at Excellent Pork Chop House -- this restaurant is among my top food places in Chinatown and it has been for many many many many years -- Excellent Pork Chop house serves my comfort food -- and I need comforting! :D

I personally love the pork chop over rice ($5.50). You can add a boiled soy-sauce egg for $0.60, which I do every now and then. What I love about this simple dish is the preserved vegetables and minced pork sauce that is draped over the rice (yes you can ask for more sauce if you'd like)... and the not-so-greasy pan-fried pork chops. The pork chops are usually plentiful for a meal; however, if I'm hungry, I tend to order a side appetizer of dried bean curd ($3.50). If you're adventurous, you can mix the dried bean curd with other small appetizers all for the same price. On this recent trip I mixed the dried bean curd with jelly fish, but you can also mix it with garlic cucumber or seaweed. It all depends on your flavor and desires.

I also recently tried their shaved ice -- yum. They don't have any extravagant toppings -- just the traditional - condensed milk, red bean, taro, tapioca balls, pineapple chunks, black jelly among other things ... I ordered my shaved ice with condensed milk (a definite must), red beans and black jelly ($3.50) and it was good... Simple, but tasty. For additional toppings, its another $0.50. Not bad compared to $5.50 at Just Sweet in LES.

The restaurant has been in New York for a long time and originated from Taiwan (its part of a chain there). So you can expect Taiwanese style pork chops here (not the deep fried that some of my Taiwanese friends enjoy, but the pan-fried ones). However, if you are looking for the deep-fried pork chops, you can try Wah Mei Pork Chop Fast Food on Hester Street between Baxter and Mulberry. I personally am still a fan and an advocate of Excellent Pork Chop House!

Excellent Pork Chop House is located at 3 Doyer Street and is directly across from the post office. Definitely make a stop by this place for its "Excellent Pork Chops" over rice ...

For a look at their menu, click here

Note: Closed on Tuesdays.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interesting Article on Homeless People and Debit Cards from the Toronto Star

A friend shared this article with me and it reminded me of a recent incident I had with a homeless person in New York...

As I was waiting at a bus stop, I overhear a man, who appears to be homeless, "grunt" something about wanting food. I had just gone to the fruit market and thought I would share it with this man. It took me a little while to offer it to him because he continued to mumble and grunt on about certain things that were slightly alarming/frightening... However, I finally decided to speak to him. As I offered him my bag of grapes, I asked if he'd like any fruit and the man's response was -- " why would I want your food - I don't know where you got it... you could have picked it out from a trash can and who knows what else your food has touched ... it may kill me! I would rather you give me money so I can buy things that I choose." Needless to say, I was in shock and had no response or comment to offer this man, so I continued to stand there waiting for the bus.

So the article below reminds me of this most recent incident -- and how, perhaps, if you are considering helping a homeless person with their requests -- in lieu of food and "hard" cash, you can offer someone a prepaid card to buy what they need (at least you know they will be using it for a pre-determined purpose). Anyhow, enjoy the article!

Joanne Mitchell, 60, and an acquaintance panhandle at a subway entrance at Union Station.

Joanne Mitchell, 60, and an acquaintance panhandle at a subway entrance at Union Station.

PHOTO AND STORY BY Jim Rankin/Toronto Star, Jim Rankin Staff Reporter

What would happen if, instead of spare change, you handed a person in need the means to shop for whatever they needed? What would they buy? Can you spare your credit card, sir?

In New York City, an advertising executive recently handed over her American Express Platinum Card to a homeless Manhattan man after he had asked her for change. The man, who had been without home after losing a job, used the card to buy $25 worth of deodorant, water and cigarettes. And then he returned the card.

Concerns over the wisdom of sharing of credits cards and credit card fraud aside, the unlikely encounter became a talking point — a feel-good story about, as the New York Post put it in a headline: “A bum you can trust — honest!”

Is that such a surprise?

Over the past two weeks, I wandered Toronto’s downtown core with five prepaid Visa and MasterCard gift cards, in $50 and $75 denominations, waiting for people to ask for money.

When they did, I asked them what they needed. A meal at a restaurant, groceries, a new pair of pants, they said. I handed out the cards and asked that they give them back when they’d finished shopping. I either waited at a coffee shop while they shopped or — in the case of those who could not buy what they needed nearby or were reticent about leaving their panhandling post — I said I’d return on another day to pick up the card. That’s when I would reveal that I was a journalist.

Some were unbelieving at first. All were grateful. Some declined the offer. Some who accepted didn’t come back, but those that did had stories to tell.

Early afternoon on Queen Street West. A young man with a short orange Mohawk haircut and a Superman tattoo on his left shoulder sat alone on the sidewalk, a skateboard at his side. A song by Michelle Shocked comes to mind, in which she asks: “What’s it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?”


His panhandling sign read: “Too ugly to prostitute. Spare some change.”

I asked him what he needed.

“Food would be nice.”

“Can I trust you with this?” I said, handing him a $50 card and telling him to buy what he needs, but that I need it back when he was done. He nodded and scrambled to his feet. He said he would be back in a half-hour.

He came back right on time, slurping from a large McDonald’s soft drink cup — root beer — and with sweat on his brow. He wanted to have pork and rice from a Vietnamese noodle joint on Spadina but they wouldn’t take the card. So, he scrambled to McDonald’s. Lunch was a double quarter-pounder with cheese.

He handed over the gift card, having spent $8.69.

His name is Jason. He’s 28, has brown eyes, a wide smile and good teeth. He has been on and off the streets of Toronto since he was 14. He grew up in Northern Ontario. His mother, he said, is a drinker and his dad died last year.

Now, he is homeless, living with friends or at a “secret spot” on the streets, but is waiting on an apartment. “I just got a POA for welfare,” he said. That’s a promise of address. He wants to get his driver’s licence and a job as a courier.

On a good day, he takes in $40 to $50 through panhandling, most of which he spends on communal food for friends. Of his most effective panning signs: “Like Obama, I like change,” and “Smile if you masturbate. Spare change if you like it.” He carries his belongings in a knapsack — just a bit of clothing and toiletries.

I handed the $50 card back to Jason to spend the rest as he likes. We shook hands and he went back to his spot on Queen.

A man sitting on a suitcase at Bay and King Streets was suspicious of the offer. “Can I buy groceries with it?” he asked. It was peak panhandling time and he did not want to leave his post. “Take care,” he said, turning down a $50 card. “But thanks a lot.”

This happened a number of times.

Another young man, James, was selling newspapers for the homeless in Yorkville. He said he was living with his sick and jobless father. “Truthfully, I’m okay. I have a roof over my head.” He turned down a $75 card.

Mark , who appeared to be in his early 30s and wore his hair in dreads, worked people outside the St. Lawrence Market. He walked up and asked if I could spare change.

“No,” I said, as I reached into a pocket, “but I have . . . ”

“A million dollars?” he grinned.

Mark said he was hungry for a meal at a restaurant. I gave him a $50 card and he asked if I would come with him. No, I said, go get what you need. I said I was meeting a friend and would be at a nearby coffee shop. He could bring the card back there.

Ninety minutes later, there was no Mark.

A record of the card transactions shows that Mark spent $21.64 on a meal at The Corner Place restaurant at Jarvis and Front Streets. The next day, Mark spent $15.50 at the LCBO.

There was a hot sauce promotion underway outside Union Station. Commuters grabbed two free bottles at a time. The vast majority walked past the panhandlers without a word.

“I need pants,” said Joanne, who squatted at the entrance to the subway, her right arm in a sling. But, no, she wouldn’t have time to leave her post to buy them and get back to hand over the $75 card I offered. I left it with her and said I would come back another day. She thanked me and smiled.

Same deal with Al, who stood around the corner, holding a sign that read “Hungry and Homeless.” He said he needed jeans and shoes. “Thank you kindly,” he said, taking a $50 card. “I’ll be here.”

Despite a few visits, I didn’t see Al again.

At time of writing, it had not been used.

A few days later, Joanne was back at her spot, looking rougher. She had a cough. She was panhandling with an acquaintance, a man who had appeared with a can of beer and poured half into her paper cup.

Joanne appeared sober. She remembered me. She had doubts the card was legit. An ex-boyfriend, she said, stole it. She hadn’t seen a penny of it, which her friend confirmed. “I couldn’t fight him,” said Joanne, lifting her broken arm.

A history of transactions on that card shows it was used nine times over two consecutive days for purchases at McDonald’s and the LCBO.

Joanne Mitchell is her full name. She’s 60, has one daughter and seven grandchildren, who she seldom sees. She worked for Bell Canada as a service rep but got “fed up.” She’s been panhandling on and off for 10 years and lives in subsidized housing. She broke her arm June 25 while trying to hang a picture and has been losing weight ever since. She was down to about 115 pounds, she said.

Joanne owned two pairs of pants. The pair she was wearing, green capris, were dirty and damp. “We could have done a lot with the money,” said her acquaintance. “Could have also bought some groceries with that.”

I promised I would be back another day with another card, to spend as she wished.

“I’ve been looking for you,” said Laurie, smiling. I’d left her with a $75 card a few days earlier at her spot outside the south entrance to the Eaton Centre. She’s there most afternoons, in her motorized wheelchair.

“Here’s your card,” she said, pulling it from her wallet.

She bought groceries that would keep her diabetes under control. She put $15 on a pay-as-you-go cellphone. She confessed to buying cigarettes. She usually rolls her own but treated herself. She did all of her shopping at a gas station convenience store, spending all but 39 cents

I explained myself.

“I’ve been wondering when a reporter might find me,” she said, bright green eyes sparkling behind bifocal glasses.

Laurie, 44, is living on the streets in the west-end and couch surfing with friends, including her ex-husband. In addition to diabetes, she takes medication for manic depression and has been diagnosed as having fibromyalgia. She must use the chair to get around and takes about 30 pills a day. She’s on a list to get into a co-op.

She has two daughters in university. One hopes to be a doctor, the other something to do with math. On a good panhandling day, Laurie will spend money in an Internet café and Skype with her girls. On a “super-duper” good day, she’ll book herself into a cheap motel and watch TV.

Each morning, she works on her resume and sends it out to prospective employers. She has computer programming skills and can type “95 words a minute, at 98 per cent accuracy,” she said.

Her last job was about 10 years ago. Before she had to start using a chair to get around. She was a waitress at a greasy spoon in King Street. Since then, she has lived off benefits.

In March, she said, she slipped into a diabetic coma, and had it not been for her ex-husband who found her and called 911, she probably would be dead.

“I’m a very positive person and things can always be worse,” she said. And then she quoted a line from Joni Mitchell’s song, Big Yellow Taxi: “Don’t it always seem to go,” said Laurie, “you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”

How the cards were used

Card 1: $50, handed to Jason. Spends $8.69 at McDonald’s. Returns card.

Card 2: $50, to Mark. Spends $21.64 at The Corner Place restaurant. Doesn’t return. Later spends $15.50 at the LCBO.

Card 3: $75, to Joanne. Card is stolen. Over two days, $24.95 spent at McDonald’s, $38.35 at the LCBO.

Card 4: $50, to Al. Card unreturned. Balance remains at $50

Card 5: $75. Laurie buys $74.61 worth of food, phone minutes and cigarettes at a gas station convenience store. Returns card.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Positive Feedback from my Mapo Tofu Blog Posting

Photos: Courtesy of Frank

One of my college friends decided to try my recipe for Mapo Tofu... and attached in this post are his pictures and his comments. Good to see that people are improvising with the recipe and making it their own dishes -- guess what? that's what cooking is all about! making the recipe your own and tailoring it to your taste! and guess what? it totally works! Thanks Frank for sharing -- it brought a BIG smile to my face!

For the recipe, check out my past posting -- Mapo Tofu and Chinese Long String Beans

I wish I could attach a flavor to this email but we are not quite there yet. I have to say it was quite delicious.

I was surprised to find the Chinese string beans at a local Ralphs market!

I had to substitute Sriracha for the hot pepper paste and Sake rice wine for the Michiu cooking wine, but it worked out well.

I was cooking in only one pan and the green beans with the sake rice wine deglazed the pan from the good pork bits which worked out pretty great.

Thanks for the recipe!

-- Frank

Happenings in NYC: John Legend performing at Grand Central Today!

Just read on the NYTimes that John Legend will be performing in Grand Central today at noon.

Don't know who he is? Here is a sampling of his songs... I just discovered this song that he did in late 2009....

However, one of my all-time favorite song from him is -- Save Room ...

and another good one is "Ordinary People"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Who Let the Dog Out! Woof woof!

Dog waiting for his owner at bread and butter!

update: now looking at the dog photo - kind of looks a bit weird... head is so elongated!

Article from the Onion: 8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live

September 2, 2010 | ISSUE 46•35

Photo from the Onion

NEW YORK—At 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, every single resident of New York City decided to evacuate the famed metropolis, having realized it was nothing more than a massive, trash-ridden hellhole that slowly sucks the life out of every one of its inhabitants.

With audible murmurs of "This is no way to live," "What the hell am I doing here—I hate it here," and "Fuck this place. Fuck this horrible place," all 8.4 million citizens in each of the five boroughs packed up their belongings and told reporters they would rather blow their brains out with a shotgun than spend another waking moment in this festering cesspool of filth and scum and sadness.

By 5:15 p.m. there was gridlock traffic on the outbound sides of the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and the area's three major airports were flooded with New Yorkers, all of whom said they wanted to go anyplace where the pressure of 20 million tons of concrete wasn't constantly suffocating them.

"I always had this perverted sense of pride because I was managing to scrape by here," said Brooklyn resident Andrew McQuade, who, after watching two subway rats gnawing on a third bloody rat carcass, finally determined that New York City was a giant sprawling cancer. "Well, fuck that. I don't need to pay $2,000 a month to share a doghouse-sized apartment with some random Craigslist dipshit to prove my worth. I want to live like a goddamn human being."

"You see this?" added McQuade, pointing at a real estate listing for a duplex in Hagerstown, MD. "Two bedrooms, two baths, a den—a fucking den—and a patio. Twelve hundred a month. That's total, not per person."

According to residents, the mass exodus was triggered by a number of normal, everyday New York City events. For Erin Caldwell of Manhattan, an endlessly honking car horn sent her over the edge, causing her to go into a blind rage and scream "shut up!" at the vehicle as loud as she could until her voice went hoarse; for Danny Tremba of Queens it was being cursed at for walking too slow; and for Paul Ogden, also of Queens, it was his overreaction to somebody walking too slow.

Other incidents that prompted citizens to pick up and leave included the sight of garbage bags stacked 5 feet high on the sidewalk; the realization that being alone among millions of anonymous people is actually quite horrifying; a blaring siren that droned on and fucking on; muddy, refuse-filled puddles that have inexplicably not dried in three years; the thought of growing into a person whose meanness and cynicism is cloaked in a kind of holier-than-thou brand of sarcasm that the rest of the world finds nauseating; and all the goddamn people.

In addition, 3 million New Yorkers reportedly left the city because they realized the phrase "Only in New York" is actually just a defense mechanism used to convince themselves that seeing a naked man take a shit on a park bench is somehow endearing, or part of some shared cultural experience.

"I was sitting on my stoop, drinking coffee, and out of nowhere this crazy-looking woman just starts screaming, 'I am inside all of you,' over and over," Bronx resident Sarah Perez, 37, said. "Then, we both had this moment where we looked at each other and realized, okay, we have to get out of here."

"This place sucks," Manhattan resident Woody Allen, 74, told reporters. "It just fucking sucks."

When fleeing New Yorkers were asked if they would miss the city's iconic landmarks, most responded that Central Park is just a pathetic excuse for experiencing actual nature, that the Brooklyn Bridge is great but it's just a fucking bridge, that nobody goes to the Met anyway, and that living in a dingy, grime-caked apartment while exhaust fumes from an idling truck seep through your bedroom window isn't worth slightly bigger bagels.

"This is no place to raise a kid, that's for sure," said 32-year-old Brandon Rushing, a lifelong New Yorker. "I grew up here and I turned into a giant asshole. Why would I want that for my son?"

"Plus, we're the place most likely to get nuked by a dirty bomb in a terrorist attack," he added. "So that's great. Also, it smells like shit here, and I'm not exaggerating. You'll just be walking around and it starts smelling like human shit, and it just fills your nostrils and you breathe in shit for like 20 seconds."

Before departing by private helicopter, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke with members of the media to address the situation.

"You know what the greatest city in the world is?" Bloomberg asked reporters. "Scottsdale, Arizona. It's clean, it's not too big, it's got a couple streets with shops and restaurants, and the people there aren't fucking insane. This place is fucking insane. And by the way, that's not a reason to like it. Anyone who says that is a delusional dirtbag."

By Tuesday night, New York was completely abandoned. At press time, however, some 10 million Los Angeles–area residents, tired of their self-centered, laid-back culture and lack of four distinct seasons, and yearning for the hustle and bustle of East Coast life, had already begun repopulating the city
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