There is a strange moment when you judge

Today I went to a bar in the lower Haight and looked at people. I scanned them, glancing at the way they were dressed and the way they smelled (if I could smell them). Were they too young? Did they smell of smoke or any other substance? Were they a young professional or one of those people who wanted to make it big…because in America, you can. If you put your mind to it.

But really I looked at their name tag. Did they have pets? If they did, not even a glance, not even a word. Were they looking for something under $800? Scratch off. Can they carry a conversation even if it’s small talk? Great.

It was so brief and quick. And even though I was angry walking out, realizing that not many people at that meetup could even afford the soon-to-be vacant room, I realized how quickly I judged people. Like speed-dating, but this was speed-roommating.

Here I am…thoughtfully thinking.

It’s always with the sound of tinkling piano or rain water. My mind is floating like the breeze suddenly, drifting away from the problems of the moment and the anxieties that followed me home.

Perhaps and perhaps slowly the peace takes those feelings away. My heartbeat slows. It is steady now. I breathe normally. The street noise fades all but away, even the distant conversations became silent faint dust.

And as I emerge with the soft cocoon, I am also pleasantly presented with an answer. An answer to all the worries that I once had.

I love how I can trust myself to know that I’ll always find a solution that is satisfactory and even excellent even to the worst of the worst.

Here come the crossroads

I am at an impasse.

Having gone to graduate school directly from college, I was on a direct path. I found jobs quickly after graduate school. Despite having been laid off not once, but twice. I always knew where I was headed.

But is it that where I wanted to go? Tough question.

What if I walked out the door with nothing. Except my credit card and a bank atm card. What if…I had nothing? What if it meant no computer, no electricity? Nobody that I knew? What if?

Every single part of my life has been meticulously planned that I don’t know exactly what spontaneity means. And those few moments of spontaneity that I experience—the moment that I walk into a foreign city and discover something…so serendipitious. Is that why I seek those alternate reality games? Is that why I love improv? Because for a few minutes, for an hour, I am somewhere else, I am not me, I am taking that leap.

Foodspotting #8: The price of the item

This was a $138 bottle of Burgundy at RN74.

Burgundy at RN74

I have always wondered how you’re supposed to ask the price of these things if the price is not listed on the menu. Especially when they’re off the menu like the Gibraltar at Blue Bottle and Shanghai Buck at Heaven’s Dog.

Fortunately nothing was outrageous.

But based on a previous experience, sometimes you can be surprised by an off-menu item. You look at the menu and everything seems to be around the $10-$15 range. And when you get the receipt, it turns out the item you ordered off the daily special is over $30! And now you have a $200+ bill that you did not expect.

How can you ask the server for the price without seeming like a super-cheap customer?

“We have a great waygu steak tartare today garnished with organic item #1 and organic item #2.”

“How much is that?”

“It’s $30.”

“Oh. Thanks”

Foodspotting #7: My partner in crime

How could I have done this without my usual partner in crime?

Here is my partner in crime in action during my food scavenger hunt in August:

Waffle Truck Champion!

In relationships, I find that there is nothing more important than having the same expectations, the same energy level, the same dedication that makes things work.

This is the management of expectations.

Moreover, we’ll do whatever it takes.

Before any great endeavor (scavenger hunts, games, etc.), we always ask each the important question: “How do you want to do this? Do it for fun, do it to finish or do it to win.”

We almost always answer the latter. Because we don’t compromise.

But more importantly, despite the many obstacles we ran into (the dish ran out, the line was too long, the server didn’t want us to order just one thing…), we did it all. And even more importantly, even at times when I wanted to quit, he refuse to quit. When I was feeling wishy washy about even drinking the belgian beer or the beer from cask…we did it. And he had the ability to talk to anyone…to relate to anyone…to quickly put someone at ease (while I quietly panicked). And that he could help me…overcome an anxiety of eating just a single dish from a restaurant when we had already had 6 meals the same deal…social anxiety is definitely not an issue of his at all.

Thanks taiche! You’re always the best.

Foodspotting #6: Committing the act (of food porn)

Before all this (nonsense), I rarely whipped out my camera to take a photo of the food. I have always believed that photos should capture an unique moment. A moment that is purely mine. Something that can’t be duplicated. Something that is interesting to view.

And this idea of taking photos of food seemed silly especially since…WHERE AM I IN THE PHOTO. Or Toad even.

There are exceptions of course. Especially when traveling. When it’s a special event. When the food looks incredibly unique.


a chocolate soufleeeeee (can't spell) at Hot Chocolate

To go into the Hot Pot

But then this whole experience of Foodspotting. I recently came across articles from SFWeekly and nytimes on this very task.

I take photos for posterity mostly. To remind myself. And suddenly to find myself to take photos to fulfill the requirements of Foodspotting was beyond me!

There were times that it was easy. I masqueraded as a foodie and descended upon photo-taking. It made sense for places like at Bob’s Donuts.

Apple Fritter at Bob's Donuts

But places like Sebo where we were having the Omakase menu. We were sitting in front of the chef. Would it disturb him that we weren’t enjoying the food? That we were stealing the moment for later? That some food wasn’t consumed right away? And didn’t the menu say “no photographs”? (I was once scolded for photography at Zeitgeist, but that’s a different story and probably different reason). So we asked the chef if we could take a photo of an elaborate course. He laughed and said that it was fine. He asked us if we were crazy foodies and whether we were going to post it online. I felt guilty…and mumbled yes…I am…

Omakase at Sebo

But food is love. It’s a way that I communicate with people. It’s sharing the experience of sight, taste, smell. It’s a memory captured perhaps digitized…just as a reminder. I hope.

Foodspotting #5: My taste preference

Chips and Salsa at Papalote

There’s this moment when you take your next bite…and you say to yourself ugh, I feel so sick. That was me when I was at my 97th item.

In this case unlike the adventure of the 6 lb burger and the 150 slice pizza, it wasn’t because I was full. It was because my preferred taste didn’t match the list owner’s taste preference.

Last Monday, while I had the tuna tartare and “gin martini” at Bix…I was…appalled. I could barely eat the olives. I hated gin. But I was doing all for the sake of this list. It was someone else’s list. It was not mine.

Blue Bell Bitter at Magnolia Pub and Brewery

And beer. Ugh. I dragged surrogates along to endure the taste that I hated, but hopefully they enjoyed.

Now nearing the end of the list, I am surprised to find that I only enjoyed less than 10% of the list. The majority of the list was just ok. I am talking about both the taste and the experience of the item. And the value. Or that I enjoyed something else there entirely.

The things I enjoyed? Lobster pot pie at Michael Mina, meatballs with grapes at Aziza, clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Depot, the abondingas soup at Mijita, cookies and cream cookie at Anthony’s Cookies, 7 courses of beef at Pagolac, roast chicken salad at Zuni…and all the ice cream. But was that it?