Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Making Of A Mega Trip - A Parable On The Dangers Of Incremental Decision Making

How do Wife and I plan and create our trips. I'm sure you will hardly be surprised to learn it is all based on an exceedingly rational and complex algorithm that leads to incredibly logical results. Let's peel the layers off the onion and see what this incredible process looks like so perhaps you too can create your own phenomenal travel experiences.

Step One - Choosing where to go

Need to see daughter #2 who lives in Hong Kong. Go to Asia

Step Two - Choosing when to go

Get tip from fellow traveling friend The Count that Singapore Airlines is having a business class ticket sale. Book tickets for March and April because that's kind of when we've been traveling in the spring.

Step Three - Decide how long to go

After our last trip of 8 weeks we decided that was a bit too long. So we'll cut this one down a bit. Oops, see Step Two. We're already committed to 8 weeks.

Step Four -Decide where to go in more detail

The valuable lessons of the last trip had us focusing on limiting our travel to just two countries in this case Japan and Korea.

Step Five - Don't forget the kids

Oops see Step One, forgot we are going to see the #2's. We will have to include going to see them, maybe not in Hong Kong but at a resort someplace so the whole family can relax

Step Six - Account for weather

Remember the lessons of the last trip! No freaking cold weather. Check average temperatures in Japan and Korea. What the F@&! Korea is bloody cold in March. Well thank goodness we'll be going to a resort in a warm place with the #2's. We can schedule it during March.

Step Seven - Adjust for kids actual schedule

Darn, the #2's are actually only available at the very end of our trip. Well we'll put in three weeks in Japan to make use of the three week Japan Rail Pass and then add some time in Tokyo. That will use up most of March. We can go to Korea after that and it might not be that cold there.

Step Eight - Adjust for Japan school vacation

Oops, there is a countrywide school vacation that will be in the middle of when we're planning to be there. All guidebooks advise not going at this time as all of Japan is filled with local tourists. Guess we'll only go to Japan for the first two weeks of our trip.

Step Nine - Throw Korea under the bus because its still too damn cold

Got to find somewhere warmer! How about Bali. Exotic, tropical, very tourist friendly, economical

Step Ten - Account for how freaking big Asia is

Holy Moly it takes almost 8 hours to get to Bali from Tokyo direct and 17 to 20 hours if you do connections. And it is not cheap. The best connection, price, and time is through Taiwan.

Step Eleven - Why not Taiwan?

Hey we could stop over in Taiwan. Check out Taiwan and it seems pretty cool.

Step Twelve - Decide what we are actually going to do in these countries.

OMG so many things to do. Have to take advantage of our rail pass. Oh that new rule about not going to too many places and doing too much; we can get to that the trip after this one.

Step Thirteen - Review results of planning process.

Let's see the results of this precise process. We're doing Four countries, Ten cities and we'll be taking Eleven airline flights and Five train trips. This is a BIG improvement over last year's Asia extravaganza where we went to four countries, ten cities, and took seventeen airline flights...😞

Step Fourteen - Promise each other we will redesign travel planning system

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mega Planning

If you've heard a disturbance in the Force you must be very sensitive to the great transformations that take place here in de-I-dia. For indeed high up in the misty heights of de-I Tower, the Masters and Mistresses of de-I-dia are planning, and plotting. For soon, yes very soon the forces of de-I will be setting forth again upon some unsuspecting part of the world. Soon yes, yes very soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Undoing Months In Days

I have been crowing the last few posts about my incredibly successful battle against the weight (I can't say the bulge because as previously noted all I'm losing is everything OTHER than the bulge). This week I've taken one of my now infrequent business trips to Los Angeles where I can happily announced I have consumed more calories in two days than I probably have in the last month!!!!!

There is something about being alone on business travel that brings out the absolute worse in my consumption patterns. On Tuesday night I had a steak that wife and I could have shared with leftovers. Last night it was a meg-burger. Thankfully my system literally will not maintain that level of consumption. It already is shutting down. And I'll be home in just a few hours and will get back on the straight and narrow. Whew.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Being The Cheshire Cat

Do you remember the scene from Alice in Wonderland? The one where the Cheshire Cat is talking to Alice and starts disappearing until all that is left is his smile? I am going through something like that.

Since returning from our Fall trip to Europe, I've been on a significant weight loss trend. I have not been dieting per se. I found that my appetite had decreased so I just started eating less at each meal. And I made a conscious decision to drink less. I don't drink less frequently but drink less quantity with each drink.

The result has been a slow gradual weight loss. On Saturday, I got on the scale and was greeted with landmark number, 174. Not 174.5. Not 175.1. But a bona fide 174.0. Not even when we were doing the radical calorie counting a few years ago did I get to this weight. Haven't seen it for 40+ years.

Now just to put things into context, for years...I mean doctors have universally, and in very deep serious tones, said..."You need to get rid of that belly. That fat around your organs is deadly. You are going to die like right now. In fact I'm surprised you didn't die yesterday. Lose the gut!" To which I've usually responded by telling them that my two grandfathers and my father all lived to their 90's with very big guts thank you very much.

Nonetheless, I am losing weight...everywhere except from my gut! So now I have less of everything except the belly. I am totally convinced that, like the Cheshire Cat, in not too long all of me will be disappearing except my belly which will still be there smiling at the doctors as they lecture it.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Truth In Advertising

I hate, HATE, when chefs, cooks, whomever, consider it okay to take time honored foods, change them completely, and claim the are "making my version of" whatever it is. I recently had a major meltdown and put a scathing TripAdvisor review for a local restaurant that had put a pasta with 'Bolognese' sauce on it yet served a dish that was in no way close to what that classic sauce should be. And when I called them out on it, they smugly said, "It's our chef's interpretation." Ya if their chef feel one can completely change a dish and put whatever name you want on it.

I, however, it was time for me to have to take my own medicine last night. We had our friends from San Miquel Allende Mexico in town for dinner. I made a rice dish that could have very easily been called a Paella. EXCEPT that it was missing a few ingredients and wasn't cooked in the proper manner in the proper pan.

So what to do? Could I be a complete hypocrite and call it a 'Paella'?

No, I proudly announced as I served:

                                               Paella Like Food Product!

And I'm happy to report that my guests loved it, ate seconds and thirds, and called it the best Paella Like Food Product they'd ever had.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Fried Rice

As I am retired from performance entertainment cooking, most of my culinary activities are focused on making food for local consumption (that would be Wife and I). It is an interesting challenge since we are both eating much less than we used to. But it's an interesting challenge to build good tasting and enjoyable meals but keep the quantity down.

About six months ago I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about fried rice. I've never had much success making Asian fried rice so I was intrigued. The author (who I don't remember) talked about how fried rice was this great tableau for using leftovers. Well that resonated because one of the hallmarks of my new cooking life is trying to make use of everything. What this author said was critical to successful fried rice was cooking each ingredient separately, seasoning each ingredient as you cook them, and then assembling them in the end with whatever overall flavor you desired. AND what was equally interesting to me was when the author talked about seasoning each ingredient separately, all he was talking about was the use of salt and some sherry wine.

So I started to experiment. Cook each ingredient separately, Season with just a touch of salt and sprinkle of sherry wine. That includes the rice itself. I took each ingredient I cooked and when they were done put them on a sheet pan. Then at the end I would create a flavor base. The first one was just some of my homemade Malay curry paste and some soy sauce. Then add all the cooked ingredients to mix with the flavor base and reheat.

The results have been spectacular. As a result we probably have fried rice now every other week. I've played around with the flavor bases. I tend to make them using prepared Asian condiments and sauces I've got in the fridge. However, the one constant is a Vietnamese or Thai shrimp paste. You don't use much of it but it gives great depth and it sings Asia.

If you use a lot of rice and have leftover rice, I strongly recommend this technique.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sick :(

I was supposed to go to Los Angeles to day for business. But during the night I had horrible reflux. I thought it was because we drank and ate a bit more than usual (a friend had come over). But after having taken the usual stuff for it, I still had a horrible time sleeping.

I had to get up at 4:45 to catch my flight and was tired. But off the airport I went. I didn't feel like eating or drinking anything. I was sitting waiting for the line up to board and I'm feeling really not so great, cramps in my stomach. With about 5 minutes before boarding, I decided to pull the plug. I went up to the check in desk and let them know I won't be taking the flight. I start walking out and realize I am going to hurl. I made it to the men's room and proceeded to puke my guts out - check off one new travel experience, throwing up in the airport - and then drove home. It was still only 7 AM when I got back. Spent all morning just curled up on either a couch or on my bed, exhausted. Definitely feel a bit better this afternoon and this evening.