Day 211: Five Miles, FiveFingers

I ran nonstop another five miles today. Although I do feel proud, it’s about time I finally get some new shoes—specifically Vibram FiveFingers.

My feet started hurting earlier this week, but with running twice the usual distance, the pain of my blisters has finally become unbearable. I got these shoes early in college at Marathon Sports, a reputable shop in Boston, and they’ve been reliable until now. Does this mean I can call myself a legitimate runner? Heh.

Going out to shop for some as soon as I can tomorrow.

Worn pair of Brooks shoes

These Brooks shoes have been through a lot, including the Color Run, the remnants of which you can still see…

In other news, my lunch at Pho Saigon in Catonsville was comforting :)

Pho Saigon in Catonsville

Grilled pork over vermicelli.

Day 210: Weeknight Outings

After a running day like yesterday’s, it’s hard to imagine accomplishing the same nonstop five-mile run the next day. Plus, we had more people who joined us this time, and we planned to get shaved ice (bingsoo) and go to karaoke afterward.

Still, I love that running nonstop around at least one lap is an attainable routine now.

Another great run at Centennial Park!

Another great run at Centennial Park!

Especially after a third consecutive day of running, the green tea shaved ice perfectly satisfied our sweet-tooth cravings and prepped us for the next two hours of karaoke.

Bon Appetit Bakery in Ellicott City

Green tea bingsoo is the bomb.

Centennial Que & Karaoke Club

Post-Karaoke group pic :)

Day 209: Going The Distance

Yay for spontaneous trips!

Before heading to work, my mom told me that she had to pick up boxes of orange chicken in Philadelphia and no one else was available to do so. (For those of you who don’t know, my parents own and run a wholesale food-and-supply delivery company.)

Would I like to go?

Faced with the oh-so-difficult dilemma of staying at home for another lazy summer day or exploring Philadelphia’s Chinatown (I hope you caught the sarcasm), I immediately agreed. Since it was easier for her to leave straight from the warehouse after she was finished with her morning duties, I went with my mom to work. Unlike the other day, I did do something to help while waiting for my mom at work. But for the most part, I passed the time Facebook messaging on my laptop. #summer

Soon enough, we were off on our two-hour drive to Philadelphia. Why this unassuming warehouse on the outskirts of Philadelphia’s Chinatown is the only one in the Northeast (or perhaps even the East Coast) to mass-produce the orange chicken that one particular customer wants in Maryland, I…don’t know. But it certainly was an interesting place, with a little market tucked inside, as well.

Philly warehouse and market

The closest facility that produces the orange chicken that my parents’ customers need.

When the business part of the trip was done, we headed to the heart of Chinatown. As luck would have it, the restaurant that my parents are fond of and my mom wanted to take me to is closed on Tuesdays. Thanks to Yelping while on the drive to this place, however, I had briefly searched for restaurants and offered that we go to a pretty highly ranked one around the corner.

And Yelp proved to be a great source. Upon entering and seeing quite a few white faces, my mom automatically pegged the place for a “white” restaurant—if you have any experience with Asian parents, you would know that it meant my mom thought the food was not good enough for Mainlanders but “American” enough to cater to the tastes white people like in Chinese food.

Once the food arrived, however, I felt a smug sense of joy. The food was amazing. Based on Foursquare reviews, I ordered the shaved noodles with peanut sauce for a shockingly low price of $3.50. One review did mention how it would be enough despite the price but I naturally still had doubts.

It came in a small bowl, but by the time I was barely half-way through, I was already full. Who knew such a small bowl could be so surprisingly filling? And I can eat a lot for my size, but I just couldn’t finish it. The noodles were clearly fresh. The sauce was not as peanut-y as expected but overall, I would order this again.

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Thank you, Yelp and Foursquare, for the yummy recommendation.

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Small scallion pancakes packed with flavor (and oil…).

As usual, whenever we visit a Chinatown, we must get at least a few boxes of sliced chicken, duck, etc. And so when my mom saw one with some pretty good-looking meats hanging in the storefront, we walked in.

M Kee Restaurant in Philadelphia

Array of meats hang ready for chopping at M Kee Restaurant.

In addition to boxes of meat to take home, amazingly cheap and delicious items from a Chinese bakery are also necessary.

Mong Kok Station Bakery in Philadelphia

I could eat these every day.

Mong Kok Station Bakery in Philadelphia

We bought a ton of stuff…

We stopped by a random market, too, where I saw a wall of some of the best Asian candies from childhood.

White Rabbit candy

This is one of the best Asian candies.

Asian candy

Wall of Asian candies.

But the one thing I looked forward to the most was one of the first things that caught my eye while driving into Chinatown: milk tea from Kung Fu Tea.

Kung Fu Tea Philadelphia

One of the first things I spotted while driving through Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

Kung Fu Tea Philadelphia

Not sure if I love Kung Fu Tea or CoCo more.

So much food in such little time, but somehow, I still managed to break a personal record at the park with my friends after the trip in the evening.

One lap around Centennial Park is about 2.5 miles, and ever since I reached my goal of running one entire lap without stopping, I have been dreaming of running two laps nonstop. Somehow, I did it. And it felt amazing.

TWO LAPS NONSTOP. #monsters

TWO LAPS NONSTOP. #monsters

The crazy thing is, I feel like I could have gone even further, but just the fact that I did two laps without stopping made me so excited and happy that I didn’t even think about running farther until after I had stopped, Snapchatted my accomplishment, and started walking back to meet my friends.

Next goal: three laps, or ~7.5 miles!!

Day 207: High School

Reunited with a group of high school friends today—and funny how so much has happened among us yet little has changed.

After joining them a few hours late at Centennial Park (I’ve never been a fan of ultimate frisbee) and chatting a bit, we discussed dinner options.

We ruled out Korean BBQ because of someone’s dietary restrictions, which made me think of the only vegetarian/vegan restaurant I knew and was a huge fan of—Great Sage. I recommended the Lentil And Green Chile Burger and Thai Coconut Curry and ended up trying something new.

Great Sage's Grilled Local Mushrooms

Grilled Local Mushrooms ($17) at Great Sage.

The mushrooms were great and flavorful, but that’s about all I can say for the dish. For the hefty prices, you would expect more, and that’s certainly what some people in the group thought. In the end, I don’t think the meal convinced any of them to try another vegetarian restaurant, let alone return to this one. I admit the meal wasn’t nearly as impressive as the previous two times I’ve been. Pretty sure my hype over how “amazing” the food is didn’t help, either.

Afterward, we headed to Tutti Frutti at Maple Lawn, where we all further caught up on each other’s lives.

Also, I’m realizing I’m becoming too comfortable with taking photos of food and not “in-the-moment” ones—because those are truly the most interesting ones. Who cares about grilled mushrooms?

Day 206: Differences

I didn’t even realize this until after my lunch today, but I miss so much about Shanghai—even the little things like the bibimbap (which by the way was 10 RMB, or <$2, or 1/6 of what it costs in the U.S.) from the tiny shop right outside of Fudan’s Tohee International Student Village.

The thing is, that was not even dolsot bibimbap, meaning served in a hot stone bowl. But it was so freakin’ delicious. It was served on top of a hot bed of rice inside a plastic to-go soup container. It was surprisingly filling, and there was something addicting about the hot sauce used. What made me reflect on this? I ordered bibimbap at a Korean restaurant—not served in a stone bowl, because frankly it was cheaper and I figured I might as well try it. I didn’t even think about how I had already tried non-stone-bowl bibimbap in Shanghai.

But boy, were the differences plentiful! I don’t know if bibimbap is served like this elsewhere (most likely), but the rice came in a separate bowl, so all the veggies were either cold or lukewarm from the heat transferred from the fried egg. The hot sauce was flavorless. All I knew was that I definitely preferred dolsot bibimbap, where the veggies would actually be warm and the crispy rice formed on the bottom of the same bowl would be the best part.

Ugh, my life at home with nothing to do seems to be consumed by my food “adventures.” This can easily pass as a food blog.

I miss city life. I miss Shanghai.

Shin Chon Restaurant's Bibimbap

Lesson learned: Dolsot bibimbap is infinitely better.

Day 205: Comp Feast

First things first: I finally updated my blog theme!

Let me know in the comments what you think! It took me way longer than necessary to change the favicon (the 16-by-16-pixel icon you see on your browser tab). Long story short, I made a really simple change seem so much more complicated. I had attempted to create one years ago with a red letter ‘S’—but if I’m being honest with myself, it was hideous and didn’t show up well. I finally decided to change it; I kept it simple by using an open-book emoji. I probably will change it again soon if I can think of a better idea.

As for the theme, I wanted to to keep it clean and simple but still interesting. No, I’ve never been willing to shell out the ~$80 for a WordPress theme (how is the Elemin theme worth $125??), but there was no way I was ever going to use the standard, cringeworthy WordPress themes or the ones that try to be unique but everyone ends up using. Case in point: I put a lot of thought into choosing a new theme. It’s not as customizable as my previous one without paying, but I’m very happy with it.

Anyway, I joined my parents and uncle for lunch at the Maryland Live! Casino today. They had planned to check out the buffet there, and despite my recent buffet bashing, I agreed to go. I guess fortunately for all of us, the buffet was not yet open when my parents arrived, and even though they would have only had to wait another 15 minutes until it did by the time I arrived, they judged that the buffet didn’t look good, anyway. I mean, does any buffet ever really “look good”?

Instead, we ate a comped meal at Luk Fu. I would have preferred trying a new restaurant, but this was only my second time anyway. Thanks to my uncle, we ordered six dishes (five are pictured) for four people. Plus, I enjoyed a pretty good chilled milk bubble tea (worth $6 for a glass…). Our Mandarin-speaking waitress was apparently rather fond of me, so she even gave me a refill. LOL. Needless to say, we pigged out.

Maryland Live! Casino's Luk Fu

So much food.

One redeeming point: I ran, jogged, and walked two laps around Centennial Park in the evening. On a Friday night, it became more apparent to me than ever that having more people at the park motivates me to run more and faster.

It’s quite a psychological thing. Basically, while running, I occasionally have to speed up to run past people (and sometimes even slow down for others to pass me). Right when I’m about to transition from running to walking, I have to do it strategically so that I don’t stop right behind people for them to hear my heavy breathing and think that I’m following too closely. At the same time, I can’t stop right in front of them, because, well, then they would be following me too closely. All these (psychotic?) fears results in me running farther just so I can find that sweet spot to stop and walk.

I’m not that crazy, I promise.

Day 204: Disappointment

Cardinal rule of cupcakes: You do NOT EVER refrigerate them!!!!!

Such was the rule that Touché Touchet Bakery broke, which resulted in a less-than-pleasant cupcake-eating experience.

Upon entering, the array of baked goods nearly made my mouth water. Everything looked absolutely delicious. Little did I know, the amateurs chilled their cupcakes.

NO. JUST NO.

Touché Touchet Bakery s'mores cupcake

Looks so much better than it tastes.

(Clearly, I’m very passionate about cupcakes. I watch cake shows constantly, after all.) This discovery is made even worse at the fact that I had been wanting to come here ever since I discovered it on Yelp and Foursquare.

First sign of inferiority: Its location. Located right off of a highway and in a seemingly deserted and old center, the bakery did not seem to be very popular or inviting, despite its reviews. Upon entering, the staff certainly was very attentive and kind, and believe me, my excitement level was at an all-time high.

Unfortunately, the cold cupcake seriously disappointed me. I could hardly taste the meager marshmallow filling, and the cake itself lacked the moisture and warmth of a fresh cupcake. I finished it, nonetheless, but I’m sad to say that even though its other non-cupcake items looked amazing, I most likely will not be returning.

Day 203: Sushi Buffets

I would rather blog about how sushi buffets make me feel uncomfortable than about the poor excuse for a photo today.

So I’ll begin with my lunch at Korshi.

The sushi buffet restaurant just opened in the area, and after tagging along with my mom at work just so I could join her and my dad for lunch instead of being stuck at home (i.e., I didn’t actually do any work for my parents), we headed over to enjoy the $12.95-weekday-lunch special. Even writing that makes me cringe. I blame AskReddit threads for my recent distaste toward buffets of any kind.

I haven’t always been so opposed to buffets. My mom and I would often frequent a small sushi buffet restaurant in nearby town but have since stopped going since it’s not exactly that convenient. And the thing is, it’s not as if I have a decent palate or any sense of what classifies as “good sushi.” Sushi, largely, is just sushi (well, with one exception: The one sushi restaurant in Gaithersburg that I always used to go to before my Saturday violin lessons, to this day, serves the best California rolls—hands down). For a while, I had always been the type to avoid the raw stuff, too, so that makes me even less of a legitimate Asian who “likes” sushi.

Even now, as I am not opposed to eating raw sushi, I still am far from being a sushi connoisseur. All of this considered, you would think that I wouldn’t mind eating at a sushi buffet, where sushi is probably not of the best quality. At the same time, I’m really not that picky of an eater—meaning if people were to take me to a sushi buffet restaurant, I wouldn’t outright refuse. The food itself, given my nonexistent palate, actually tastes good. I would just probably never recommend going to one.

I’ll get to the point. There’s just something inferior about buffets, in general—let alone sushi buffets—that creates this feeling of discomfort. Disregarding even the fact that I feel keenly aware of the size of the people eating at buffets (yes, I fully realize how nasty I may be coming across), I just do not like the concept of eating as much mediocre, unhealthy food as you can to get your money’s worth. I guess I like being served, as opposed to having to get up several times to pile on more food than I should be consuming.

It’s not even about being lazy. If I had to choose between fine dining and buffets—both uncomfortable situations for me—I would choose fine dining any day.

The reality is, given my career track of a poor journalist, I probably will frequent more buffets than fine dining restaurants (unless I somehow manage to become a food writer with my nonexistent palate). I just found it interesting to realize as I was eating at Korshi that I even felt at all slightly uncomfortable. After all, it certainly was not my first time at a buffet, and it’s not as if the food tastes repulsive. It’s all those revealing Reddit threads, I’m telling you! For example, I will NEVER eat at a Golden Corral (watch if you dare).

Anyway, it seems as though I wasn’t inspired enough while at Korshi to take photos (other than a Snapchat that I regretted to save of a piece of sushi). Instead, I took a photo of a meditating dog I saw at Pier One Imports, where my mom and I went to spend her $80 coupon (yeah, my sister went all out for her recent room decorating). Needless to say, this was not what we spent that coupon on.

Pier One Imports meditating dog

Why is this a thing?