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My 2011 Summer–A Photography Documentary

25 Sep

I guess we could all go to the beach for one more time, but the summer of 2011 is sadly over. As I was doing my seasonal photography archiving, the captured moments reminded me what a wonderful summer I had.

So I decided to do a post about this summer—places I visited, people I met, food I ate, and some random moments when I happened to press the shutter of my camera.

2011.7---Yellowstone, a trip of lifetime

2011.7---Grand Teton, hiked on some unforgettable trails

2011.6---New York City, a different skyline of the city from the Highline

2011.6---Hoboken, just another quiet Sunday evening

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.8---New York, Grand Central

2011.9---Houston, TX, taking off with the first sunlight

2011.9---EWR, getting ready for another 11-hour trip

2011.9---Portland, OR, waiting for a table for brunch

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Urban Fever 2—First Grand Central Photoshoot

14 Aug

This is a quite spontaneous photoshoot. If I knew I’d do a photoshoot at the Grand Central, I would have charged my camera and brought all the extra gears. But when I was on my way to visit a friend on the Upper East Side on Saturday, I suddenly found myself standing in the main concourse of the terminal. Grand Central has everything a photographer needs—great lighting, giant space, commuters who are not annoyed by cameras (because there are just so many people taking pictures) and fascinating stories behind the building. I unconsciously took out my camera and ended up spending an hour there.

 

 

Urban Fever 1–A Tourist’s New York

11 Aug

The Tourist is an unbelievably bad movie. I feel bad for Johnny Depp because I think he’s actually a good actor and should not be having those ridiculous lines with¬†Angelina Jolie who only knows how to toss her hair beautifully and show the best angles of her thick lips. But I guess the movie at least made one point–being a tourist in a new city is always an adventure.

I heard people say you can’t call yourself a true New Yorker if you don’t live in the city for six years. Lately I heard the number has increased to ten years. I guess that might be because the real New York City has become even harder to figure out, with more tourists (I bet a lot of them are from China), the dysfunctional Wall Street, weird commuters from New Jersey (like me) and more dogs that perhaps cost more money on food every month than I do. Anyway, how would I know? I just moved to this area only a bit over a year ago and I don’t even live in the city. So I guess even though I know a few streets of the city, I’m pretty much still a tourist to New York City.

So here is a little piece of the big city through a tourist’s eyes and lens on an ordinary Saturday in the summer.

Note the commercial on that blue screen is about a Chinese city called Chengdu, my home town!

I was trying to remember when was the last time I was on a MTA bus. Failed!

NYC Cab Yellow

The Empire State Building looks pretty different

A B&W photo always feels more elegant and classy

@Union Square Farmers Market, better than Whole Foods across the street

Love the color

Those guys must be smart. But why I don't see an Asian??? Weird!

A Different New York Skyline

19 Jun

There are certain rules that you have to follow if you want to have a better New York City experience during the summer, when the city is packed with tourists from all over the world. One of the rules is that you should never go to the High Line Park on a weekend.

This amazing public park, which was converted from an elevated freight railroad, is obviously not designed for holding too many people at the same time. So I went to the High Line in an weekday evening and it was an amazing experience to observe the city from a quite different angle and re-think what makes New York City so attractive to many people.

Following the rail tracks, it’s a journey to search for the city’s memories. The railroad, according to Wiki, connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets. Today, the High Line has given a rebirth of the tracks, connecting multimillion properties and offers New Yorkers a new place besides the Central Park to appreciate the diversity of the City, check out their cute neighbors, flirt with strangers, enjoy the sunshine over the Hudson, and contemplate what the City is really about.

The High Line Stretches under the Standard Hotel

Time Stays, We go

People + City

New York Summer

A million-dollar view?

New York cab drivers drive too fast

The world's best city's skyline looks different today

A New York City Concert

16 Jun

I’ve never been a big fan of New York City. It’s too noisy. There are always too many people. It’s way too expensive. I have many reasons to not love the city. But there’s one thing that makes me can’t not to take New York City seriously–the serendipity that you can’t find anywhere else. I had never felt about this so strongly until last Saturday after I went to Nate Fetinger‘s classical music concert Not Dead Yet, Nate’s NYC debut as a classical composer and pianist.

The music is so refreshing and breathtaking. I was truly amazed by Nate, a 23-year-old young musician who however doesn’t event work in the music industry at all. I don’t know if I should hate the city for not (yet) let him afford to be a musician as profession or if I should appreciate the city for honoring me the opportunity to become a good friend with Nate, who might otherwise be already too famous as a composer if he never came to the city.

Perhaps this is why people love New York City so much–you just constantly find something amazing that you would never expect. Like a coworker of mine, who so inspired me as she runs 7 miles almost everyday. Or like another friend of mine who backpacked in Central Africa for a month. Or like Nate, who lives a simple 9-5 life while pursuing his music dream on the side (which is definitely what he should be doing for the entire time).

Congrats, Nate! Looking forward to your next concert!

Jonathan Estabrooks (Baritone) sings Goethe Songs. Nate (Piano) wrote the piece in 2010

THREE, a piece Nate wrote this year. Mioi Takeda (Violin), Wanda Glowacka (Cello), Nate (Piano)

Congratulations Nate!

He got some fans already

A Taste of Spring

12 Mar

Gyms in New York City has been insanely packed since the beginning of January. The City’s fashion savvy people has been trying to get rid of the holiday/winter weight for more than 2 months and it’s about time to take off the thick jacket and show off what they have accomplished. With all that said, a new spring is around the corner.

Spring used to mean the coming back of fresh vegetables, which may still be what’s being told in the textbook for school children. But greenhouses have destroyed the culinary implication of spring entirely–almost everything becomes available all year round. The excitement about spring foods has been largely diminished. I had been struggling to come up with a recipe to welcome the most comfortable season of the City.

Finally I realized I still have a bag of Chinese baby bamboo shoots in the freezer. Those bamboo shoots could only be picked up in certain mountainous areas in southwest China during the early spring. One of such areas was Chengdu, where I went to elementary school. I remembered every spring mom would be super excited if she got the super fresh baby bamboo shoots from the local farmer. She would cook the bamboo shoots with pork belly and make a stew dish that would be super rich in flavors, fat and of course, a taste of spring. I was so thrilled when I first got the imported frozen bamboo shoots in a Chinese supermarket in central Jersey.

Yes, the bamboo shoots in my fridge was apparently over a year old but I figured they were truly the ingredients that could remind me of what spring should taste like. Then I decided to make the pork belly stew that mom used to make every spring.

The stew took me over 2 hours to finish but as I always believed, slow cooking brings better food. The stew turned out a big success and even made me a bit emotional–savoring the bamboo shoots in my mouth reminded me of my childhood and all the memories just kept pouring into my brain. I guess we all had the similar experience when we listen to an old song or look at an old picture or watch an old movie. It is just so interesting to justify why a flavor can trigger such strong chemistry. In that sense, cook is indeed so much more than about feeding the hungry but about expressing feelings, tracing memories and making a statement.

Alright, time for dinner!

Pork Belly Stew with Chinese Baby Bamboo Shoots

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2.5 pounds pork belly (half lean meat and half fat, serve 4 people), diced 2-3 square inches
2-3 pounds fresh or frozen Chinese baby bamboo shoots, Julienne cut
4-5 potatoes, peeled, diced
1/2 Chinese rick cooking wine (or regular cooking wine)
1/2 pound white mushroom
4 cups water
2 whole star spice
4 pieces (1/2 inch each) ginger root
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
diced scallion

1. In a big pot, heat up the vegetable oil with low heat, stir ginger, garlic cloves and star spice for 1 minute

2. Add pork belly and mushroom to 1. and stir with brown sugar, soy sauce and wine for 3-4 minutes, high medium heat

3. Add water to the pot and bring to boil. Add bamboo shoots and bring to boil

4. Cover the pot with a lid and stew for 1 hour 15 minutes, low heat

5. Add potato, stew for another 20-25 minutes

6. Add scallion before serving

 

 

Back to authentic Chinese food

11 Nov

Being a Chinese who can cook means Chinese food doesn’t have to be the take-outs from the Chinese restaurant on the corner. Although American-Chinese food might work just fine for people who never had¬† a chance to taste the REAL Chinese food, it absolutely won’t work for me. So when I miss the taste of home, I get it back myself.

Cooking authentic Chinese food doesn’t have to be complicated. You may always associate Chinese food with thick smoke, lots of oil, MSG, and all sorts of weird stuff. I can’t say your perception about Chinese food is totally wrong, but let’s try to be a bit rational here. The size of China is almost as big as that of the U.S., it’s simply ridiculous to put all the food there under a category called “Chinese food.” The difference in terms of flavors, cooking techniques and ingredients varies dramatically from region to region.

The dish I’m blogging about today belongs to Szechuan cuisine, which is well-know for its spiciness and easy execution.

The Szechuan Style Spicy Shrimp is not difficult to cook at all. It’s literally a 30-min dish you can easily prepare for the whole family.

Ingredients you need:

White onions, fresh shrimps, chilly pepper, jalapeno, ginger, lemon, salt, sugar, cooking wine

Cook with me step by step:

Slice the onions;

Peel the shrimps (I highly recommend you buy shrimps with the shells still on and peel them before cooking. The taste of the shrimps will be soooo much better than those frozen peeled ones, trust me!);

Slice the ginger;

Heat up 4 tea spoons of vegetable oil in a skillet and add salt, sugar and chilly pepper;

Stir-fry the shrimps with the ginger, onions and jalapeno for about 1 minute before adding 2 spoons of cooking wine and 1 spoons of fresh lemon juice;

Keep cooking the shrimps for another 1 minute;

Done!

Served with steamed white rice and pan-fried Napa cabbage and of course white wine.

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