Okay, this is one super duper late post *guilty*. But I’ve been wanting to share this before the month comes to an end, so here goes.
To put it all into as little words as possible, which is impossible because you know I’m quite the wordy type, I had multiple foodgasms while I was in the States with my mom during mid-June. It was only a short trip to PDX and SFO (it was for my brother’s graduation), so you won’t expect much from this post, especially due to the fact that I’ve resided in downtown Frisco before and have visited most cities along the West Coast (including Portland).
However, the 12-day trip left me longing for more food in the States (although more importantly, you have to factor in the friendly people, the beautiful surroundings, and fresh air). It reminded me how I gained 10kg while I was studying there ;) Fortunately, I went down to the weight I was at before.
I’ve completely forgotten how much of a pleasure it was to dine out while living in the States, partly because during the last couple of years I was there, I cooked at home a lot, and Whole Foods was my haven. Mostly, it’s because for the last year or so that I’ve came back to Jakarta for good, I haven’t been as enamored by edibles on a day-to-day basis as much as I was during this trip.
Most of the time, I have compromised to some degree with the eateries that are quite “happening” in Jakarta, so that I can agree and relate with most people, although this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them as much as I claim to. It’s just that the overall feeling and dining experience is different (like I said, try to consider seemingly unrelated factors like people, surroundings, and quality of air). Not only are the portions served at such sizable amounts (that you’re often left feeling bloated but happy), the foodstuffs in the U.S. are always served with, at least, some fixed caliber of quality. As far as I can remember, rarely are there times when I have to think twice about how much I like my meals and/or tolerate with the things I’m particularly nit-picky about. When I’m sitting in my chair and feel that boost of energy after I just chewed something phenomenal, I just feel it and savor the moment to the fullest, like you do when you’ve literally reached your climax. Every bite is like a foreplay that builds you up. So I don’t stop to try to find what’s good about the food item/restaurant just to counterbalance all the things I am dissatisfied about the meal, and I think that’s the most joyful part in about any dining experience.
It’s easy to see why, even with all the stuff I’ve already posted on Instagram, that I can’t help but share everything I’ve encountered during the trip that either are worth revisiting about, or just totally blew my mind …
I should warn you that I go off-topic on many occasions below, so read on at your own time.
Otherwise, let’s begin with our first stop at Corvallis, Oregon, otherwise known as the home of Oregon State University.
For a college town, this is a pretty vibrant place, and the Beavers spirit was so strong and alive that if there’s one thing every one living in the city had in common, it was their undying support and enthusiasm for the football team. I was surprised to find how easy it was to get around, specifically with the free public buses that loops around the university perimeters and beyond. Before I moved to Frisco back in 2007, I lived in a college town in the Midwest for a year or so. It was so difficult to get around unless you have a car, so coming to this town was overall a pleasant surprise, and we haven’t even touched a word on food.
Along the stretch at Monroe Avenue rests a considerable variety of eateries to choose from. My brother said he loves the fact that the MIME (School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering) building is perched right across the avenue, so whenever he stayed till morning in the lab or just in the building and got hungry, there’s always food available nearby.
There are a couple of campus foods I’ve tried in the area, such as Thai Chili (where I got my creamy tom yum soup above) and Shogun Bowl, but I wasn’t in town long enough to try everything that my brother said was good, like Local Boyz, Lemongrass Noodle House, and Qdoba (an Oregon specialty chain for quick bites), just to name a few. I know it’s such a small town and that it’s wonderful how there are plenty of established eateries to try, such as Magenta, Evergreen, and del Alma. Point is, you can imagine how easy it was for OSU students to enjoy the campus life there, considering how accessible it was for them to engage in outdoor recreational activities around the area, such as biking, hiking, trail running (!!!) and even river rafting1. It’s neat that the Willamette River stretches across the entire northwestern Oregon. My brother said that I can probably only see beavers if I get closer to the greener sites along the river, but we only had so much time, and it’s such a pity that I didn’t get to see one of those tiny little fur balls.
If there’s one thing I really miss, it’s Chipotle (nachos, burritos, quesadillas, anyone??). I know they’re everywhere in the nation and they’re pretty accessible across each state, but you’ll never get a guac and sour cream as good and as cheap as this anywhere else. They’re the kind of healthy fast foods that everyone from the die-hard vegan to the most carnivorous man in the room can enjoy.
Other than that, I’m really missing out a lot in PDX, as I was only there for less than 24 hours. If you haven’t been informed, Oregon is a tax-free state. It’s an ideal place to, literally, shop till you drop, and where else can you find the most retail stores per square foot other than the largest city of the state?House signature roll, Beast: California roll baked and topped with Albacore tuna, spicy sesame sauce, shredded fresh fried yam and scallions[/caption]
Needless to say, there were far more restaurants in Portland, Oregon, that you can get your hands on. What’s more, the city is the mother of all cities when it comes to food carts, the quasi-street style foods you see by the road in most urban cities around the world (not to be confused with food trucks). Initially, we were heading down to the famed Pok Pok, but we had to wait for 2 hours in line to get our seats. You can only book a reservation if you’re making it a party of 5 or more, so we went downtown for Yama Sushi & Sake Bar instead.
Seriously, I can’t remember when was the last time I had quality sushi with quality service (and at a happy price). The house was full that night (it was a Saturday night) and considering it’s very much a sake bar, diners were mostly enjoying their bottles of junmais and nigoris to pair with their sushis.
Time flew, and by 2pm the next day I was already in San Francisco, California.
It felt splendid to be back, almost like that feeling when you’ve finally reached home after a long trip. My mother, who was visiting the city for the 8th time in her life, couldn’t help but feel almost as if she’s home as well. Before the 3 reckless children were born, she and dad came here to spice up their romance, and then there’s the U.S. tour the whole family got on back at somewhere around the millennium, and then there’s my big bro entering college, then there’s second bro entering college, then there’s me entering college, grad, and so on and so forth. The last time she was here, she made it clear that it would be the last time she’s going to see the Golden Gate Bridge (she’s seen too much of it), so this time around we skipped the landmark and headed elsewhere.
Apparently, there’s a new restaurant in Japantown that people are talking about. I decided it was a good place to meet up with a friend of mine, as we used to dine together around the neighborhood a lot to deal with college stress together. Unfortunately, we didn’t know SSISSO‘s going to serve such ginormous portions to the 4 little women on our table, so one of our dishes had to arrive only to become a takeaway item (not in the pictures).
Shared a few hours of life updates and before we know it, our tummies are beyond full. Nonetheless, everything on our table was fab.
The next morning rolled around, and my mother and I agreed on emptying our stomachs only to fill it with the abundant foodstuffs we’re about to brace ourselves during the day.
So I stopped by the awesomest bubble tea shop in the Bay Area, Sweetheart Cafe, to get me some tapioca balls. I first got to know the modest place while I was in Berkeley with a couple of friends, and later I found out the one here in SF Chinatown is equally awesome. Friends of mine tend to speed as far as a half-hour ride from Daly City just to get some bubble tea fix, so you can imagine how soft, bubbly, chewy and sweet these tapioca balls really taste like in your mouth. It’s not like any other balls you’ve tasted elsewhere; it tasted almost like real tapioca, but with the consistency of something that falls right between a taffy and a marshmallow.
Now … over to the Pier, and the underappreciated Bay Bridge.
Funny story: My naughty cousin, who moved to LA from the Bay Area, had a friend who was visiting one time. He took the guy around the city to look around, because this guy didn’t know anything about the city, not even what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like. So while crossing the Bay Bridge on an afternoon ride, couzie pointed out the window and said to the guy, ” … anddd here’s the Golden Gate Bridge.” The poor guy believed up to this day, at least, till the day couzie told me about the story.
Another irrelevant fact: The 6-mile stretch from Ferry Building all the way to Pier 39 is still my favorite flat course in the whole world, particularly if it’s still 6am in the morning, when there’s some fog, when nobody’s around, and that the sky is still pinkish yellow. It’s such a peaceful feeling to move your feet along the pier back to back with uber hot, tall, lean runner guys passing you by with either a thumbs up or them flashing their beautiful smiles. If you’ve been wondering what keeps me motivated to wake up in the morning and run 10 miles all these years, it’s the coregasms along the pier, and these uber hot, tall, lean runner guys had to do a lot with it (shameless, I know).
Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ll love this one store in Sausalito, California. I sought it out just because my mother had never been to the town, and she’s heard her friends saying it’s beautiful. I’ve been getting there by car all these years with friends, so this is the first time I’ve gone from SF to Sausalito by the ferry. It’s also the first time I went into the Ferry Building for the purpose of riding a ferry. It felt a bit touristy, though fun regardless.
Even as the sun was starting to set, we’re still a little early for our dinner at my favorite garlic restaurant in the world, The Stinking Rose, so we had a bit of a photo sesh with the Transamerica Tower as the backdrop and Cafe Zoetrope in the mid-ground. This neighborhood is printed as North Beach on your maps, but it’s best known as the Little Italy of SF. If you’re new in the city and you’re hip and young, be sure to experience the nightlife in the area, because as soon as the clock hits 12 at midnight, the district turns into a vivacious little party town ;) There used to be a popular Italian dessert spot along the avenue called Steps of Rome Caffe (and the neighboring Trattoria), where the waiters would give you a a good striptease if you’re a girl and you said it’s your birthday that night, but they’ve closed down. Oh well.
Walking along Columbus Avenue (the Indonesian embassy happens to be on it), you’re bound to come across the hub of Beat poets City Lights Bookstore, where I used to chill for hours on end sticking my nose to books upon books. It’s an urban retreat, I must say, and I love how the bookstore’s preserved so much of its beatnik history to this day. They have sections devoted to Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, and other poets of the renaissance. Bookworms, rejoice.
Now, for the real deal …
You know what? I guess there’s no such thing as too much garlic on my plate, and that’s all there is to it.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any room left in my tummy for dessert that night, even though every item on the dessert menu looks so good it hurts just to sit down to decide and pick one.
As if Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich wasn’t enough to convince me that on a fundamental level, we are all motivated by the 2 necessities of life (food and sex), every dining experience I’ve had at The Stinking Rose goes much farther than meeting my needs of hunger – it’s an intensity that bursts right through every compartment there ever existed of the human need. It’s funny how we keep isolating aspects of our core selves thinking that if we just cut everything into bite-sized pieces, we can conquer each piece easier than before. All we really want is to experience the ultimate pleasure in its most virginal form. After all, isn’t that what true desire tastes like? Okay, I’m getting a little too philosophical here, but I guess simply put, one practical way for me to experience pure, intense pleasure is downing a mega-massive amount of garlic :p
On our last day in SF, I took my mother to try the one dessert I think everyone must try before they die: The glorious Buca di Beppo tiramasu.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what is it that makes it so different from all other tiramisus you’ve ever tried. Well, it’s not as slimy and whipped-creamy as usual, and it’s got tons of mascarpone and rum to tantalize your buds. I love that even after they’ve made its recipe public and that anyone can replicate the dessert in the comfort of their homes, diners still come back for the unique dining experience Buca offers its patrons. It’s just that their vintage-styled interiors, their one-of-a-kind ornaments, the antiques and the crimson walls, festooned by the numerous old-school photographs of public figures, altogether make up for a very warm and welcoming mood that’s ideal for diving in to the splendid chows with your loved ones.
Buca chains are around nationwide, not exclusively in downtown SF. Although I was here only for dessert, I highly recommend coming in with a large group and trying out their pizzas and pastas for dinner. Buca is best known for its family-sized servings, so you better come with an empty stomach.
On the day we leave for Jakarta, I took my mother to see Lombard Street for the first time. It’s dubbed as the crookedest street in the world, and fortunately, it was such a beautiful day to take pictures.
Funny how I’ve been living there for 5 years and have never ridden the celebrated cable cars before. This was my first, and it was USD 6.00 for a one-way ride!! No wonder why only tourists ride on them, hehe.
We spent some more hours stocking up stuff that aren’t available in Indonesia throughout the afternoon, then headed back downtown to enjoy our last meal in the States at E&O Asian Kitchen. It’s a prominent fusion restaurant that’s just situated a few blocks away from where I used to live on Sutter Street. We skipped their house favorite item, the Indonesian fried rice, and enjoyed other specialties instead.
What’s really nice about a city filled with health-conscious hippies and eco warriors is that restaurants always provide a separate menu for them. So I opted for the gluten-free version for the signature E&O burger, which has its buns crafted out of brown rice flour and sesame.
This is the first time in ages that I actually enjoy eating meat. The patty was soooo juicy I was melting on the spot. It was perfectly grilled and perfectly salted to the point where the slightest bite of the tender patty oozes yet even thicker juices in the mouth. There were minimal hints of umami, which I like, overpowered by the pickles and the aromatic Thai-style papaya salad I added to the burger as I bite. If there’s any one meat dish I’m forced to eat everyday for a year, I’d pick this platter without a second thought.
At the end of the day, while on our flight back to Jakarta, my mother said she thinks I need a vacation to the States once every year to let off steam. There’s the hypothetical question of me ended up living in Frisco for the long haul, or me applying for a green card. I can imagine the many natural stress-relievers there would be, but I would still miss the most important ingredient of my life (family and friends).
Jakarta is a pretty stressful city to live in if you’re not a big fan of carbon monoxide and traffic congestion. You can always survive in the city with a lot of careful planning and a resilient mind, but because I’m not a very tolerant person yet, I tend to get angry a lot on the road because people tend to think the yellow light means it’s green, and that they can just take over my lane as long as the clock keeps ticking. As time goes by, my patience for motorcyclers have increased, so that’s one good thing. During my first year adapting to the life in Jakarta back in the second half of 2012, it was beyond stressful – I was petrified.
For someone who’s already made it a habit to sabotage herself and always blaming herself for the big and small mishaps of life, it was by no means a torturous period for me. I think I burned out again. I literally missed my period like I did back in 2010-2011, and my head seems to sting at longer intervals each time. It all snowballed to the horrible months I’ve went through before this trip, when I suffered so many nights of insomnia and constantly sleeping late and waking late. Its damaging effects have well extended beyond me and onto my relationships, and while I never spend more than USD 1,000.00 a month on shopping, I developed this bad habit of attaching my self-worth to material goods. I never used to, and I blamed myself for that negative habit. It’s all an endless cycle of self-judgment and self-punishment. It’s frustrating and most of the time, all I really need was a walk, although I’d always prefer a good run.
Will outside situations and circumstances change after this mini letting-off-steam trip? Of course not. I can’t just lace up, grab my keys, and go out for a good run here in my hometown, but because I’ve blown major steam during this trip, I can now remind myself that intelligence isn’t fixed, smartness is learned, and that I can deal with stress better if I want to. Going back to SF and be reminded by such rush I get from little pleasures have certainly energized me with a broader perspective and given me much more room to become even more resilient about this thing called life.
I’m blessed, I’m thankful God’s restored my health and turned my snarled sleeping schedule around, and somehow, I’m sure I’ll be running back to the States again when the opportunity comes.
via Annoying Orange