Sunday, January 22, 2012

FOOD: Dim Sum- Yangtze Restaurant

It only seems natural to write a food blog about dim sum on the Chinese New Year!  No, I did not brave the lines today... but it would have been well worth the wait.  I do not claim to be a dim sum expert by any means.  My writing is just based on my own experiences.  Hopefully some day I can experience dim sum first hand in China!

Thinking back on my first dim sum experience, I felt excitement of the unknown... and hunger!  Walking into a Chinese restaurant that is filled with mostly Chinese people gives you a feeling right off the bat that the food must be authentic and amazing.  It was.  In a typical dim sum experience they start off with bringing tea to your table.  All food is wheeled around on a cart or carried on a tray to your table so that you can see the food options.  The servers have always been friendly and have always been very helpful in explaining what each item is.  Every time something is ordered the server marks an X on a piece of paper that is left at your table.  There are different sections to put an X in, and even two different sizes.  This is how they ring up your bill later.  It is a strange feeling not knowing how much you're spending, but the costs are fairly cheap so you can try many different dishes without breaking the bank.  All dishes are meant to be shared by the table, which is great because you can try many different things. 

My two favorite things to eat at dim sum are Goa (dumplings) and the sticky rice.  Goa can be filled with any type of meat or seafood.  My favorites are usually shrimp or pork (shaomai) dumplings.  The sticky rice is steamed in a lotus leaf (which gives it an amazing, somewhat sweet flavor), and is filled with other ingredients such as mushrooms and chicken.  There are also many deep-fried options that are delicious as well.  A favorite fried option are the "shrimp balls" which I'm not sure what are called in Chinese.  They are crunchy on the outside and a soft shrimp blend in the middle.  I eat all dim sum with soy sauce, spicy chili paste, and of course chopsticks.  Even though I know which dim sum items are my favorites, it is always exciting to try something new.

(Unfortunately one of my only pics from dim sum... after we destroyed the food! haha)

On my 26th birthday this past December we went out for dim sum.  As always around my birthdays, I seem to go a little "manic" and find the need to do new things or experience change in some way.  It's always been like this around my birthdays.  I've done everything from chopping my hair (and donating it) to deciding to move.  Anyways, this blog entry isn't dedicated to me getting older.  The point of my rambling is that I decided to be daring that day and try something new that I had always been curious about.  I tried tripe.  For those of you that don't know, tripe is intestines.  Although this seems gross to eat to almost everyone I tell, it is a normal dish in many countires around the world.  When I ordered tripe off the cart, the server acted shocked that I was ordering it.  I reassured her that is what I meant and I was the first to dive in.  Squishy, and tasted like the vegetables that it was cooked along with.  Despite the texture, which is comparable to calamari, it wasn't bad.  I even got my friend to try it!  Although it wasn't my favorite, I am glad that I have finally tried it.  

Every time I go to dim sum I still feel that excitement that I had during my first visit.  The only change now is that there isn't a big feeling of the unknown.  Instead my excitement is filled with knowledge.  Knowledge that I'm about to eat some great food.  Knowledge in which food is which, and what it tastes like.  I often take friends to dim sum, partially to broaden their food horizon, and partially to scare them out of their comfort zone.  Even though I have much to learn when it comes to dim sum, I gain experience with each visit. And I still want to learn more!

homemade dumplings

Where I go:
Yangtze Restaurant:   (dim sum available on weekends 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.)
5625 Wayzata Blvd.
St. Louis Park, MN  55416
For a better understanding of dim sum check out:

Or this blog that I stumbled upon:

Monday, January 9, 2012

TRAVEL: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (April 2011)

What's not to like about a free vacation?  I spend 7 days 7 nights at the beautiful Dreams Villa Magna in Nuevo Vallarta last April 2011.  Although I'm not usually the type for the "all-inclusive" scene, I made the most of it.  I spent most of my time by the ocean, boogie-boarding and sipping drinks.  I also took two trips to downtown Puerto Vallarta... but quickly learned that to see the actual Puerto Vallarta we would have to leave the two-block radius from the ocean.
My group and I headed up the hill to find a local restaurant to eat at.  Our mission was to find a restaurant that didn't have a sign written in English.  Not in English meant it was a place for the locals, with the real food of Mexico.  We found a small taco/ burrito shop where the workers were watching a game of soccer on the television.  We ordered up some burritos, and needless to say, the food was quite amazing.  During our time at the restaurant we never ran into any tourists, which makes me question: what off-the-boardwalk touristy restaurant did they eat at?  Actually, now that I think of it, I didn't see any non-locals away from the two-block radius from the ocean.  Quite a shame.
We also shopped in some markets:
Another highlight of the trip was getting to cross off some items from my bucket list: boating on the ocean, and zip-lining in the jungle.  We traveled my boat, aka a motorized raft, to the spot I would soon declare as one of the most beautiful spots in the world.  As we boated into a small cove, we set our eyes on La Boca de Tomatl├ín for the first time.  I fell in love.
(click to enlarge... trust me, its better enlarged!)
Endorphins. 

Zip-lining through the jungle, something every adventure-seeker has on their bucket list.  Mine has finally been accomplished, and you know what?  I WANNA GO AGAIN AND AGAIN!  This was no ordinary zip-lining experience from one stand to another: we zipped, we rappelled, we crashed into a pool of water!  Okay, the last one I can safely suggest not doing.  Of course when they ask the prove-she-can-do-anything girl (who happened to be the first in line) "the fast way or the slow way", she chooses "fast".  Well, ahem, for this you tuck your knees up as close to your stomach it will go... landing you in a... well... lets just say that was my first ever enema.  Despite this, it was still an amazing experience.
Someone from our group about to get the zip-lining enema:
One the way back to the boat we stopped at a local convenient store for some cervezas.  This was the first time in Mexico that I was actually tested on my Spanish-speaking abilities.  Not knowing the words for "bottle opener" in Spanish I mumbled "botella abierto?" with the universal hand symbols of popping the cap off a beer.  She nodded and pointed at the wall. 

 
Oh yeah and I got a free shower on the boat ride home... score!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

BUCKET LIST: what currently needs to be checked off

  1. GO SKYDIVING 
  2. SEE A GLACIER
  3. HAVE CHILDREN
  4. SWIM WITH DOLPHINS
  5. GO TO A DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATER
  6. SELL A PIECE OF ART
  7. GO CLIFF JUMPING
  8. GO ROCK CLIMBING (real; outside)
  9. EAT SUSHI IN JAPAN
  10. GET SOMETHING PUBLISHED
  11. GO TO A FESTIVAL IN INDIA
  12. SNOWBOARD A SAND DUNE
  13. SKI ALPS
  14. TIMES SQUARE FOR NEW YEARS
  15. BE A MODEL IN A PHOTO SHOOT
  16. RIDE AN ELEPHANT (obsessed with elephants)
  17. PARTY AT A PENTHOUSE IN VEGAS
  18. GO ON A HELICOPTER RIDE
  19. TRAVEL BY TRAIN
  20. BUILD A TREE HOUSE
  21. LIVE IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY
  22. EXPERIENCE ZERO GRAVITY
*this is only the current list... its ever changing! any ideas?

SOME RECENT ADVENTURES FROM MY BUCKET LIST:
  1. GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE
  2. BOAT ON THE OCEAN
  3. GO ZIP-LINING IN THE JUNGLE





 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ADVENTURE, LOVING LIFE, AND THE PURSUIT OF TRYING NEW THINGS

This blog is dedicated to living life to the fullest.  I've always had that passion to make the most of any situation, I guess you can call me an optimist!  I'm just not afraid to embarrass myself, or to talk to strangers, or to try something new.  Believe me, this lifestyle of being a self-proclaimed optimist has not always been the case.  I have been through some very trying experiences in my life.  I've seen myself as a pessimist, not caring, and near giving up.  I have learned to deal with the past, knowing that you can't change or fix problems that you didn't create, and I have done my best to grow and learn from these experiences. 

Moving forward.  I have always enjoyed writing.  Until the past couple years, where I have found myself too busy, I have always kept a journal.  Writing is extremely therapeutic. 

This blog is about ADVENTURE in every form.

 April 2011, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Thanks for reading.