We are in the midst of a thoroughly January state of affairs: We got home on New Year’s Eve from our trip to see B2’s parents in Honolulu, where I was lazier, more relaxed, and more rested than a parent with a toddler has any right to be (God bless grandmas), and in the midst of our post-Hawaii gloom, were all promptly felled by the Great California Flu of 2018. Well, more accurately, I was felled by the Great California Flu of 2018, B2 was mildly sick, and B3 was sick for exactly one night before bouncing back to his same exuberant self, charging around the house while casting me mystified looks and wondering why his mom was being such a baby.
We are now solidly into the magical stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that no-holds-barred span of weeks that I typically use to indulge all of my wildest cookie and hot cocoa and cinnamon roll whims, and yet, much to my dismay, I’ve spent most of it so far thinking about, not chocolate or candy canes or marshmallows, but vegetables. In particular, these leafy greens. I am as surprised as you are.
The day we visited Macau was a rainy one. We splashed around from Senado Square to the Ruins of St. Paul, hunted down Margaret’s Cafe e Nata for caramelized, blistered Portuguese egg tarts only to discover to my utter dismay that it was closed on Wednesdays, and eventually ended up, soggy-toed, in the Venetian Macau, which I suspected meant we were doing Macau wrong but at least meant that (1) we were nice and dry and (2) I got my Portuguese egg tart fix after all at a Lord Stow’s Bakery.
As some of you might know, especially if you’re as avid of a reader of her blog as I am, the wonderful Lindsey Love behind Dolly and Oatmeal is expecting a baby boy any day now! Since the first time I stumbled across her space, Lindsey has amazed me, not only because of her delicious recipes and her impeccable aesthetic, but because she brings such a calm, lovely spirit to everything she does — the sense of peace and light that comes through in her blog is exactly the way she is in person, and it’s the kind of aura that makes you want to be around someone, because you come away feeling happier and better yourself. For that reason, it’s been especially wonderful following her blog through this exciting new phase of life — she brings that same peaceful spirit to an experience that can be a whirlwind of so many emotions, in a way that continually inspires.
Dear diary. Dear everyone. On Sunday, I had my very first cup of coffee in four months. !!! To be fair, I think it was about two tablespoons of coffee in a cup of milk and a boatload of sugar, so it tasted more like melted coffee ice cream than coffee, but I’m going to say it counts. It was the most exciting moment of my Sunday. Or July. I never ever imagined I’d stop drinking coffee while pregnant — instead, I was terrified of going without it, and I’m pretty sure I looked up that “one-cup-a-day” rule way before B3 was a figment of our imagination (and maybe even before B2 was a figment of mine). I was holding onto that rule with both hands and feet and entire being all the way up until one day around week 6, when I woke up and coffee suddenly and inexplicably smelled like the worst thing in the world. Such woe. But somehow this weekend, after four months of matcha (which was, granted, far from the worst), I opened up the coffee tin and thought mm instead of oh no get this noxious tub of poison away from me, and B2 had to listen to me chant “look at me, I’m drinking coffee!” as I sipped a tiny melted-ice-cream for the rest of the morning. It was an excellent Sunday.
Oh man, it’s been not-enough-hours-in-the-day days around here lately. Most of the time it is safe to ignore me when I say that because I spend about half my waking hours huffing to B2 about the “million things I have to do” and then the other half of those hours on the couch doing zero of those things until it is too late to do them, but for once, it actually has been a little nonstop from one thing to the next. One of them is a very good one, though, and it’s that one of my good friends, source of indispensable life advice, and surrogate jie jie has been in town with her new (!) and awesome fiancé! They’ve been staying with us and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m convinced that having house guests is one of my favorite ways to see friends. I get to feel like a real grown-up person when I put out “guest linens” and coffee accoutrements “in case you want to make some in the morning” (even if I have a couch instead of a guest bedroom and I forget to put out that cone that goes in the Hario so actually you cannot make some in the morning, oops), and it fits right in with my lazy-homebody agenda (see, e.g., dinner parties) because when things get hectic for them or me, there’s still always time before bed to sit and chat in pajamas and eat cookies even though you already brushed your teeth.
I’ve written a lot about how much I love the food in Hong Kong. I’ll probably write more even after this. I’m a food-oriented person to begin with (I know, shocker) and the places I’ve been and the memories I have are, a lot of times, defined by the things I ate and savored and enjoyed in any one place at any one time. But all that said, Hong Kong might still be the greatest food city I’ve ever been to.
The first real meal I had in Hong Kong was courtesy of my cousin, who is lucky enough to call HK home and to whom I owe about 85% of my HK food journey. He took me to a traditional Cantonese restaurant, the sort with the ubiquitous Lazy Susan crowded with small plates and bamboo baskets, and the first dish he ordered was, fittingly, a plate of the most perfect char siu, lacquered ruby red and glistening, sliced into pieces with the fat and lean distributed just so. I’m pretty sure from that first bite (or, that first plate, since I think I single-handedly ate all of it) I didn’t have a bad meal for the entire four months I was there. Chewy, crumbly pineapple cakes from Kee Wah, nibbled in their plastic jackets on an open-air walkway from Central to Sheung Wan; fish ball skewers in electric yellow curry on a narrow street in Causeway Bay; “quicksand” lau sa bao filled with molten egg custard at a dim sum joint that opened at 3 AM for the late night crowd. Creamy yuan yang and silky-soft scrambled eggs on toast at Australia Dairy Company. A mountain of ground pork with a single salted duck yolk perched exactly on top, the most umami-filled dish I’ve ever had, ordered for me in fluid Cantonese by a friend and shared under fluorescent lighting in a hole-in-the-wall on a balmy fall night. I used to take the bus to a random neighborhood and just wander, window-shopping food things, until I found something I wanted to eat, and from the KFC egg tarts to the best, penthouse restaurant hairy crab, it was all some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Hi friends! How was your weekend? We spent a fun one down in North Carolina at the wedding of one of Bowl #2’s college friends. This might just be me and the fact that I haven’t gone to that many yet, but I feel like I love weddings more and more with every one I go to, even when I’m a plus-one and I’ve never met the bride and groom. (But also there’s a 20% chance you’ll find me crying in my office to YouTube highlight reels of strangers’ weddings on any given afternoon. Just so you know what kind of constitution you’re dealing with.)
So I’m pretty sure I never really knew what horchata was for the longest time. It was just a drink that sounded vaguely delicious and that I suspected I was missing out on until I got distracted five seconds later. And then I came across these these dreamy cinnamon horchata popsicles last summer, I finally sat down and read Jonathan’s beguiling words about it — and it suddenly became one of those things that sounded so crazy delicious and ambrosial that I wondered what I was doing with my life that I hadn’t had it yet. If you’re vague on it like I was, it turns out horchata is a sweet, creamy drink made from (among other variations, depending on where it’s from) rice, almonds, and cinnamon, served chilled and over ice. The soaked rice and almonds produce a richly milky, opaque sip of heaven that’s still completely dairy-free, and with a touch of heat from the cinnamon, it’s kind of the only thing I want to drink all summer long.
It always surprises me around this time of year that summer hasn’t technically ended. Less so when I hear about sweltering heat in LA or abiding humidity in Florida, but at least around these parts, it feels like fall. We’re retiring our AC and pulling out sweaters. The air has a crisp snap to it in the mornings; the leaves are edging golden. The subway fills up more on my way to work, and I’m back to coming home from work in the cool gloss of darkness.
At the same time, there are still fleeting hints of summer around, even if it doesn’t feel like it outside. The afternoons are sunny, and the local markets are still overflowing with summer produce. This past weekend, I came home with a bounty of white nectarines that were sweeter than candy. And this week, I’m still eating ice cream. This (dairy-free!) Thai peanut version, to be specific.
Truth be told, I’m kind of overdue for a homemade dairy-free ice cream. Eating a lot of lactose almost always makes me uncomfortable, but because I’m bad, I do it anyways — clearly. And clearly again. (I’m single-handedly setting back the cause of people with mild food intolerances.) But after a few too many internal struggles, and after coming across an abundance of gorgeous dairy-free ice creams this summer (just look here and here!), I thought it was time to own up, because frankly, the dairy-free versions are just as good — if not better!
This is a riff on a Jeni’s flavor I’ve been meaning to try for a long time. Her Bangkok Peanut ice cream has fascinated me ever since a friend came back from a Jeni’s in Nashville raving about it, and I thought it’d be the perfect place to start with dairy-free ice cream, given that it already contains coconut milk, and all her ice creams are egg-free to begin with. In addition to the cornstarch and corn syrup combination Jeni already uses to fortify her ice cream, I added a tablespoon of bourbon to keep the ice away, as per Ashley’s tip to add alcohol, and replaced the cream cheese in her formula with a little extra peanut butter.
I was completely in love with the taste and texture that resulted. It was the fluffiest, softest ice cream I’ve ever made, with a thick and creamy texture that’s reminiscent of gelato. And just like Jeni says, the taste is like pad Thai in ice cream, in the best, least-weird way possible — it has a subtle coconut flavor, the smoothest, richest peanut butter taste, and a punchy edge from the cilantro and red pepper I ended up topping it with. To me, it’s an ideal bridge between late summer and early fall. Cool and refreshing, but creamy and decadent enough to be comforting, especially with the touch of heat from the cayenne.
I hope you’re all having a great last Wednesday of summer!
Edit: The first version of this post listed this ice cream as vegan, which I’ve now realized was totally incorrect. It contains honey, so it is only dairy-free. You can replace the honey with agave nectar, maple syrup, or more corn syrup to keep the recipe vegan. Thank you so much to the commenter who asked!