Boise in a list of 40

16 06 2014

WE NEVER forget our first.  I mean to say, “firsts,” as well as all other things worth taking note of.  My first sojourn to the land of world–famous potatoes is coming to an end.  I allow myself to wax nostalgic and I’m not surprised that as I sip through my Tall Breakfast Brew with room for cream and brown sugar mixed in, I couldn’t help but break into smiles as my list of 40 unravels.

They say that life begins at 40.  I think I’m off to a great start.

01

I’ve been made aware of Boise and of Idaho more along the lines of being one of the best places to live in the States, and to raise a family.  I didn’t realize that this assignment would inadvertently allow me to tick off an item on another kind of list:  “TheCNN10 Dare To Go” List, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/travel/cnn10-dare-to-go/.

"The CNN 10 Dare To Go" has Idaho on its list!  I have to say, I've ticked this one off!

“The CNN 10 Dare To Go” has Idaho on its list! I have to say, I’ve ticked this one off!

 

01_Arrival_00

eNTeNG, mere minutes from arriving at Boise Airport.

 

Welcome to IDAHO!

Welcome to IDAHO!

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson!  "And I DO like...  Hoo-hoo...  Living under your STOP LIGHT...  Hoo-hoo..."

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson! “And I DO like… Hoo-hoo… Living under your STOP LIGHT… Hoo-hoo…”

 

02

Somehow, it is indeed very nice to know that “in Boise, you are just within 15 minutes of almost everything.”

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road...  Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road… Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

 

03

In Boise, nature is beautifully and peacefully juxtaposed with modern–day technology.  I was first able to write about a similar observation on my first ever trip overseas, when I delivered a speech at a UN–sanctioned international conference for students held in Japan in 1990.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes.  The Foothills.  The Blue Sky.  The pristine white clouds.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes. The Foothills. The Blue Sky. The pristine white clouds.

 

04

I have never driven my whole life.  So that was the first and foremost concern I had when I learned about my trip to Boise.  Cue The Beatles:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”  Cue James Taylor:  “You’ve Got A Friend.”  And of course, cue TLC: “I don’t want no scrubs.  Scrubs is a guy who can’t get no love from me.  Hanging on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride…’  #Ouch!  Hahaha!

 

05

I was able to get my fill, to my heart’s content, of all the Boise State University (BSU) #BRONCOS merchandise I could get my hands on.  Sadly, I wasn’t as fortunate with University of Idaho #VANDALS.

Lovin' my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

Lovin’ my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

 

Hats galore.  The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

Hats galore. The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

 

06

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.  I ordered their Pho the first time I was there, and never looked back.  I also never ordered anything else.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh's Spicy Chicken Meal!  Well, everybody but me.  Not because it isn't any good.  It is excellent.  But I'm all about the pho.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh’s Spicy Chicken Meal! Well, everybody but me. Not because it isn’t any good. It is excellent. But I’m all about the pho.

 

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho!  Probably the best I've had the world over.

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho! Probably the best I’ve had the world over.

 

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers.  And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

 

07

YOITOMO in Downtown Boise may not be the best Japanese restaurant around, but their All–You–Can–Eat lunch and dinner specials are right up my alley.  And I give them a gold star for the most creative names for their dishes.

I've eaten all I could at this place.  At Lunch, and Dinner.

I’ve eaten all I could at this place. At Lunch, and Dinner.

 

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura.  And I could slurp that dipping sauce...  if I could.

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura. And I could slurp that dipping sauce… if I could.

 

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like.  Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs.  Haha!

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like. Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs. Haha!

 

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo.  And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo. And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

 

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

 

08

The undivided love and attention I usually give to an excellent piece of ribeye steak has finally had to yield to some level of sharing.  How could I not with those amazing sweet potato fries?  My first – Legend’s.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend's.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend’s.

 

A knife through the steak.  And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

A knife through the steak. And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

 

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

 

09

Speaking of amazing sweet potato, the baked version served at Texas Roadhouse, the one with melted honey brown sugar oozing down to the sides, has always been worth subjecting my ear drums to decibel levels that will send me to the EENT someday.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato!  My heart would've melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato! My heart would’ve melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

 

A close shot of the object of my affection.  Gustatory affection, that is.

A close shot of the object of my affection. Gustatory affection, that is.

 

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse.  Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town.  Haha!

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town. Haha!

 

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection.  The latter often win.  (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection. The latter often win. (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

 

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises.  The display alone would make anybody's mouth water.

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises. The display alone would make anybody’s mouth water.

 

10

My seatmate on the Portland–Boise leg of my incoming flight told me that real Idaho potatoes could not be had in Idaho.  If they ever could, they would cost an arm and a leg.  Fortunately, to make my now–famous (haha!) chicken–pork afritada and beef mechado, Winco Foods keeps me covered by stocking up on the best potato in the world!

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others.  All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others. All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

 

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

 

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada.  #BBF Steele became fond of this.

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada. #BBF Steele became fond of this.

 

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

 

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

 

11

Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine, the current office cafeteria concessionaire makes the best Sugar Cookie.  She doesn’t make a lot of it per batch so when she does, I would hoard them.  I share some and the rest, I portion and ration to my own self as much as I could to delay the ultimate gratification.

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

 

12

I wish I spoke Italian.  So that I could fight with someone so fiercely, which is the perfect excuse to later make up over a pint of Haagen–Dazs gelato.

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  Guilty as charged!

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Guilty as charged!

 

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream.  Well, sometimes.  Haha!  As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream. Well, sometimes. Haha! As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

 

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this.  I'd see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this. I’d see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

 

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

 

13

For more wholesome pleasures, Tillamook Cake Batter ice cream is the perfect choice.  I can finish the half galloon all by myself until I get sick.

Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting.  And on one occasion, I did.

Tillamook’s Grandma’s Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting. And on one occasion, I did.

 

14

The best store–bought gelato is Talentis Tahitian Vanilla Bean.  I get it for US$5.99 at Albertson’s.  And for US$3.99 only at WinCo!

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson's and just had to take a snap.  I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven't looked back since.

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson’s and just had to take a snap. I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.

 

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors.  And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors. And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

 

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

 

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

 

15

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s will set you back by about US$ 4.00 at your friendly Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, or WinCo.  In Singapore, it costs S$ 15.00.  The exchange rate is US$ 1.00 to S$ 1.30, typically.

Gotta keep lovin' Ben & Jerry's for not being boring.  Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

Gotta keep lovin’ Ben & Jerry’s for not being boring. Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

 

16

Nothing beats homemade goodnessChase Mecham’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, his grandmother’s (secret) recipe, is so good it belongs to a prominent place on the supermarket frozen section aisle.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, "Chef" Chase Mecham.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, “Chef” Chase Mecham.

 

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me.  On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport.  I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me. On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport. I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

 

17

My first real experience of Mexican cuisine was at my mentor Ralph Kim’s family dinner at his sprawling home of a house.  I had a taste of unforgettable tacos and that killer of a key lime pie!

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos.  It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos. It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

 

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos.  I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos. I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

 

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

 

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler!  With the brownies and the "leche flan" is the unforgettable key lime pie.

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler! With the brownies and the “leche flan” is the unforgettable key lime pie.

 

18

I think the Boise Factory Outlet Mall is seriously underrated.  When you’re done shopping, you can actually soak in the awesome view of the Boise Foothills.  (Okay – I can hear you sayin’ that the same could be had right smack from the parking lot.  You have a point.)

 

19

Speaking of the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, I had a couple of field days there, rummaging through the CLEARANCE section at LeVI’S.  I used to only shop where it says S–A–L–E in big bold red letters.  But LeVI’S has changed this to big bold red letters that spell C–L–E–A–R–A–N–C–E.  I got several pairs for myself at only US$ 9.53 each after a further 40% was cut from the lowest–ticketed–price of US$ 14.98.  #SWEET.

"Take an additional 40% off already reduced items."  Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?!  Haha!

“Take an additional 40% off already reduced items.” Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?! Haha!

 

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

 

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

 

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores.  I find this...  what's the word...  ah, therapeutic.  Haha!

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores. I find this… what’s the word… ah, therapeutic. Haha!

 

20

My good friend Chase Mecham, the generous Baker King himself, would usually make his own mix of nuts, seeds and spices that he would throw into his dough mix – the image in my head involves a lot of wrist action like in flouring a counter top on to which the dough would be mercilessly slammed – but on the one he brought for me to sample, he used a mix he found at random at Trader Joe’s.  It’s called DUKKAH: A Nut & Spice Blend.  It was a whiff of inspiration.  Chase’s homemade bread had become my favorite.

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

 

What's one of the best things in the world?  Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

What’s one of the best things in the world? Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

 

21

I was running an errand at Sephora one day when I stumbled upon a kiosk that sells artisanal olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and focaccia so good I must’ve finished all the samples – cubed morsels of rosemary–perfumed goodness – while I carried on an animated conversation with the lovely shopkeeper.  She was so nice I ended up requesting a selfie with her.  And yes, one huge loaf of the bread!  The shop is called Olioteca.  They are online at http://www.olioteca.net/.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca's artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca’s artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

 

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

 

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy's.

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy’s.

 

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

 

22

My good friend Jonathan Young makes a spicy marinara sauce so good, I had to restrain myself from licking the Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ in full view of the Building 36 lunch crowd.  Sometimes, whatever little sense of propriety a person has always comes in handy.

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony.  Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™...  sometimes, why don't we?

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™… sometimes, why don’t we?

 

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

 

23

I may have no problem strapping a Rolex on my wrist but at the same time, I do derive as much pleasure – if not more so – from all the discounts I have managed to score, shopping at ROSS, Marshalls, and TJMaxx.  And trust me, it is amazing the bursts of clarity that come with psychotic retail therapy.  I had formed some of my more brilliant ideas while taking a pause beside the clearance racks.  Right there, just beside the further–reduced bins.

 

24

I would wait for the Macy’s commercials on TV.  I love how the word “doorbusters” rings with much profundity.  My favorite Ralph Lauren Trail Sweater in navy blue cost me only US$ 19.60 + tax after 80% was slashed off the original price.  Major score!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

 

25

I collect the beautifully designed “scent swatches” (cards) that are used to test perfume or cologne in department stores.  I re–purpose them into gift cards where I write my signature personal notes that come with whatever I give away.

 

26

I thought I was good at making the Filipino leche flan.  And then my good friend Chase Mecham‘s crème brulee came along, by way of one ramekin all to myself!  Same holds true for Filipino specialties that I realize could be made so much better by others – Rafela Sim’s mom Mamita makes the best “ginataang halo–halo”, Arvin Daguro’s wife makes the best “ginataang hipon”, and, Ricky Victor’s wife makes awesome pasta.

Rafela's Mamita whips up the best "ginataang halo-halo."  I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

Rafela’s Mamita whips up the best “ginataang halo-halo.” I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

 

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro's wife Lea's "ginataang hipon."  (Shrimps in coconut milk)

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro’s wife Lea’s “ginataang hipon.” (Shrimps in coconut milk)

 

27

#BBF Steele Stone’s lasagna developed in me a deeper appreciation for pasta doused in sauce that has been simmered for hours.

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele.  The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele. The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

 

#Selfie with #BBF Steele!  Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

#Selfie with #BBF Steele! Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

 

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel.  They brought me out to lunch on this day.

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel. They brought me out to lunch on this day.

 

28

#Hump_Day_Wednesday means a box of a dozen donuts – often from Country Donuts – shared with the best people you know.  This I learned from the example of #BBF Steele Stone.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise.  An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise. An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

 

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays!  I miss these donuts.

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays! I miss these donuts.

 

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box.  Like this chocolate–glazed one!

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box. Like this chocolate–glazed one!

 

29

Eating gluten–free is not a fad.  With all the pasta I devour, I couldn’t imagine an easy existence if I were allergic to gluten.  So I give mad props to all those who whip up edible works of art that pack all the flavors and nutrients sans the allergens.  I’ve been fortunate to sample muffins and (Bundt) cakes made by Sandy Kralik and Heike Brown.  “There’s even no sugar in there eNTeNGJust bananas.”  They were so good that I went bananas.

The Sandy Kralik "There's–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There" Muffin!

The Sandy Kralik “There’s–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There” Muffin!

 

Heike Brown's luscious Bundt Cake.

Heike Brown’s luscious Bundt Cake.

 

30

Gotta love those oatmeal cookies made by Nick Kaiser.  I had to send him my 10–second review from the very first bite.

Not much to look at and doesn't photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

Not much to look at and doesn’t photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

 

31

Some of the best gifts I have ever received this past four months are handwritten notes.  And I would be remiss if I’d not make mention of all the handwritten cards I did receive.  I’ve been reading them over and over again.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise.  I have to say, these are the best things I'd remember the place – and my time there – by.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise. I have to say, these are the best things I’d remember the place – and my time there – by.

 

32

I would start my day with happy, fast songs that I think would put the spring to my step.  I can’t listen to Tiesto’s Red Lights without images of South Federal Way buzzing like neon in my head.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

 

33

I am not afraid of color.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  On two occasions – once in Singapore and once here in Boise – I was told by someone that I bring “Gummy Bears” to mind.  Haha!  I find that to be a huge compliment as it came from two people whose opinions count.

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

 

34

Trader Joe’s opened in Boise on February 28, 2014.  Of course I was there.  After taking several snaps of the bottles of Cookie Butter on the shelf, I had the urge to clean all 35 bottles on display.

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe's to Boise!

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe’s to Boise!

 

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf.  I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these.  I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff.  I was happy to explain!

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf. I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these. I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff. I was happy to explain!

 

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

 

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version.  This one gained a lot of fans.

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version. This one gained a lot of fans.

 

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe's.  Haha!  Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe’s. Haha! Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

 

Made a friend at Trader Joe's.  Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

Made a friend at Trader Joe’s. Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

 

35

The very first car at the parking lot that I took a snap of has the license plate “BELLA”.  I thought the owner was a Twilight fanatic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Hello Gorgeous!

Hello Gorgeous!

 

36

I don’t drive but I do lust after cars from time to time.  I’ve had the longest and deepest longing for the MINI COOPER.  Some of the more recent important days of my life had been punctuated by a sighting of a MINI swooshing by.  I think of it as some sort of lucky charm.  There is a nice MINI I would see at the parking lot on some days.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

 

... and at Albertson's.

… and at Albertson’s.

 

...  and even in Chicago!

… and even in Chicago!

 

37

I think I will miss my cubicle of 120 days – that little corner by the door of Room 113A.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

 

And then...  it was DONE.

And then… it was DONE.

 

38

I am ending this assignment feeling so well taken care of by locals.  By those who have given me a ride to and from my apartment and “dream” destinations.  And by all my friends at…  Boise City Taxi!

I Heart Boise...  City Taxi!

I Heart Boise… City Taxi!

 

39

They say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.  I would say, life is what happens when you actually live those plans.  I couldn’t have been anywhere else better in the last 120 days than in 83706, in this Gem of a State.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

 

40

Food that provides real comfort could prove to be perfect for mopping up tears – cue here those singular nights of homesickness – and when made really really well, they could move an old man like me to tears.  Such was the oxymoronic delight that is the Blondie from the Mecham family kitchen, which, as I have unabashedly declared here, is equal parts home baking goodness (by his wife Jen) and a treasured family recipe.  For sure, I will miss this Blondie.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams.  'Nuf said.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams. ‘Nuf said.

 

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat.  Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat. Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





The heat is on in Saigon

7 04 2014

 

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.

My Pho Beef at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway in Boise, Idaho.  It is now my "usual".

My Pho Beef at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway in Boise, Idaho. It is now my “usual”.

In a seeming defiance towards the tastes of my Compadre Dennis dL and Cher Hong, Yulia, and Victor who all asked for the humongous Spicy Chicken (or Beef) lunch plates, I asked for the Pho Beef – a huge bowl of thin glass noodles swimming in flavorful broth, served with a side of bean sprouts, sweet basil, slivers of jalapeno peppers and a wedge of lime.

The size of greens that add new layers of texture and flavor to the soup.  Staring at these make me feel like I had already made penance for all the fat I had consumed.

The size of greens that add new layers of texture and flavor to the soup. Staring at these make me feel like I had already made penance for all the fat I had consumed.

The self-proclaimed expert in me – on anything noodles – sees the beauty of Vietnamese cuisine, the pho in particular, in its simple, clean flavors that allow itself to be customized to one’s taste.  And this is achieved exactly with the medley of the sides it is served with.  Dump the bean sprouts in and a new layer of texture (crunch) is instantly added.  Tear the basil leaves to perfume the already restorative broth.  Wake up your senses with the interplay of chili and lime.

The popular – and ginormous – Spicy Chicken plate!

The popular – and ginormous – Spicy Chicken plate!

But Dong Khanh makes the best pho this side of Mountain Time zone because they start with arguably the cleanest, most flavorful broth I have ever tasted in the States.  And when I come to think of it, I would say even in the Philippines and Singapore.

Linda, who attended to us, was the most convivial of servers I have encountered of late.  She was quite attentive without being overbearing.  She told me they don’t have fresh lemonade on their drink menu but with a smile said that she won’t mind giving me iced water and slices of fresh lemons if I’d consider it.  I’ve often been told that if the food sucks, the service would be impeccable.  I have held that as absolute truth.

Well, Dong Khanh disproves that absolutely.

Compadreng dL™©, Cher Hong, Victor, Yulia, and, eNTeNG.

Compadreng dL™©, Cher Hong, Victor, Yulia, and, eNTeNG.

 

Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant

Address: 2137 S Broadway Ave, Boise, ID 83706

Phone: +1 (208) 345-0980

Hours: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 4:30 PM – 10:00 PM

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.





A story, bak kut teh, and a lesson on tea

23 03 2012

The famous Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House

APPARENTLY, UNCEASING dreams of bak kut teh (meaty pork ribs soup) could really lead to having the door slammed shut at your face.  But unlike in the case of a top Hong Kong government official, my series of unfortunate events in the pursuit of the best bak kut teh didn’t matter enough to stir uproar from the masses.

The anecdote was perfect to whet the appetite on the short walk from the car to Ng Ah Sio Pork Ribs Soup Eating House, at 208 Rangoon Road, Hong Building, Singapore.  It was lunchtime, so the chances of being turned away were slim to none.  Though this place has been known to run out of the house specialty way before 2:00 PM.

The interiors of this "eating house" is replete with memories.

 

A section of the wall has been turned into a photo wall.

I went there for the bak kut teh that should take no time to make it to the table.  But the very little wait turned out to be enough time to squeeze in a little lesson on tea preparation courtesy of our host.  But he had to first pull me from my distraction – snapping shots of the interiors and the walls with my trusty Blackberry Bold 9780.

Come here, eNTeNG.  Pay attention.  Next time, you will make the tea.”

Like the dutiful student that I was decades ago, I sat down and paid attention.  A little boiling water from the kettle beside our table is poured into a small terra cotta pot.  “This is to clean the pot.”  The water is then poured out on to a shallow aluminum pan.  A little more water is added to the pot and this time, the water is poured out on to really cute, really-miniature-they’re-almost-purely-decorative teacups.  “This is to clean the cups.”  After all the cleaning – or shall I say, cleansing?a bag of loose leaf tea, infused with dried jasmine blossoms is ripped open, the matte pearls of floral goodness allowed to tumble into the earthenware.

The really cute teacups and the terra cotta pot.

 

A lesson on tea preparation. This now is my new task.

 

A peek inside the tea bag. Or sachet. Or packet.

The boiling water hits the tea leaves and a robust, ethereal, soothing whiff engulfs the air as if incense paying homage to the advent of pork ribs soup touted to be so good it could very well change a life.  That, or simply raise the bar of what really good bak kut teh is.

Two really meaty ribs come swimming in a deep brown soup.  The shape remaining intact – no visual hint to the much-desired fall-off-the-bone romanticism attributed to flesh stuck to bone – proves to be the perfect foil to the tenderness that would yield to the first bite.  The flesh fell off the bone.  And the meat was quite flavorful.  It sure took hours to simmer the meat in the rich, full-bodied, peppery broth.  But it was just enough to develop much depth in the flavor and render much softness to the pork.  But without draining the life out of it – no matter how paradoxical that sounds.

The bak kut teh that I’m waxing lyrical and yes, with much longing about, came without any pretensions – just ribs in soup.  But it was stick-to-your-ribs goodness (the pun is intended!) that made me not miss the many cloves of garlic that I’ve been used to with bak kut teh.  Not even the bunches of fresh coriander I would litter my soup with.  But a deep sense of longing did rise from my gut to my head, halfway through my bowl of rice.  I knew I needed another bowl.  So just when the attentive wait staff refilled our bowls with the heavenly soup, I mustered all courage I had in me, to sheepishly smile at our host and ask, “May I have one more bowl of rice?”

I was quite embarrassed for asking seconds that I had to chase my sudden shyness down with a shot of the jasmine tea.  And for about the second time, I had to stop for a split second to appreciate how perfectly the subtle fragrance of the tea buoys the flavors of the bak kut teh.

But only for a split second, as the descent of a steaming hot bowl of white rice snapped me out of the trance I was falling in.  I dug my chopsticks into the pristine grains and quietly slurped my soup and thought, with the constant craving that this experience has ignited, I don’t think I would be able to stand having the door slammed shut at my face.

I looked up and saw that they are closed on Mondays.  I just had to tell myself, “Ok, avoid Mondays.”

The star of the meal... Bak kut teh!

 

Copyright © 2012 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





eNTeNG’s The Best Of… Native Delicacies – Butterscotch, all the way from Iloilo City! (3rd in a Series)

23 12 2008
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Luscious treats from down south - Biscocho Haus's Butterscotch from Iloilo City! Thanks, Rhyne!

It’s a beloved Filipino custom to bring back tons of “pasalubong” from a vacation or any trip.  “Pasalubong” actually doesn’t really translate to something in English.  I mean, as far as my ‘limited’ prowess in the language is concerned (see, I’m referring to a prowess as ‘limited’… such paradox!), it doesn’t have a direct equivalent.  Loosely, it could mean anywhere from a souvenir, a token present, or ‘coming back home’ gift, if you will.  But if there is something I love about “pasalubong,” it is the fact that most of them are food items!

 

Which brings me to the latest installment to my ‘eNTeNG’s The Best Of…’.  And this one – Biscocho Haus’s Butterscotch – comes all the way from Iloilo City, lovingly hand-carried by my friend’s sister, then passed on to their mother.  Now, how can that be short of anything but love?!

 

Speaking of love, my ‘love affair’ with these goodies began about four years ago when our many engineers from Iloilo City brought back bags and bags of these goodies from their last trip back home.  And I’ve always craved for them since.  And this may sound preposterous, but I’ve come to love Iloilo City because of these treats.

 

Later on, I realized that most other bakeshops offer butterscotch.  But the ones from Biscocho Haus in Iloilo City are tops on my list!

 enteng_butterscotch-01a

 

Technically, butterscotch is something made of sugar and butter.  That’s about it.  And mind you, that tastes good in itself.  Though a word of caution to those with a short fuse for extremely sweet confectionery, sugar and butter alone may seem too cloying.  Probably that was why Biscocho Haus threw in flour, eggs and milk to the mix and came up with their to-die-for, heavenly butterscotch!

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I can finish a bag of these.  And to shamelessly borrow a line from another product, ‘once I pop, I can’t stop!’  I tear the plastic bag open, and like a conveyor belt assembly line, I open each butterscotch cube wrapped in multi-colored cellophane, put it in my mouth, chew, and experience one of the most intense moments of pleasure I’ve ever had.

 

Each cube is like the most dense, but at the same time, most moist piece of confection there (ever) is.  It has a nice crumb that’s packed well (like ‘packed’ brown sugar), and when chewed gives the sensation of the smoothest nougat.  It almost tastes like ‘food for the gods’ but without the dates.  And the best part of it is that these are made from ingredients that can only be fresh – flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk.  Plain and simple!  I read the package and I see that I understand everything that went to what I’m putting in my mouth!

 enteng_butterscotch-02

I’ve had butterscotch from practically everywhere – including the ‘caramel bars’ from Max’s – and these ones from Biscocho Haus in Iloilo City are undisputedly the best!





eNTeNG’s The Best Of… (Chocolatey) Snack straight from the grocery shelves (update to ‘2nd in a Series’)

15 12 2008

TWO POSTS down, I did promise to update the second installment of the ‘eNTeNG’s The Best Of…’ series.  And that one was all about snacks one can get straight from the grocery shelves.  Two made it to the list, kinder bueno and this one – Hunt’s Pudding Snack Packs (in chocolate or chocolate fudge).

enteng_hunts-chocolate-pudding-016

One will never be enough! My other entry to the best of snack straight from the grocery shelves - Hunt's Snack Pack Chocolate Pudding!

As the title of this entry suggests, I found this snack on the grocery shelves.  And for the second time on this blog, I am heralding a discovery as serendipitous.  It happened at, where else, but the international landmark (pun intended) for all things affordable and within-reach – SM Supermarket!  It all started with a sharp turn I made on one of the aisles of their Makati City branch, in a frantic search for chocolate-flavored marshmallows.  I couldn’t remember when it started but I have had a prolonged, unfulfilled desire for these spongy confections of gelatin, sugar and corn syrup, in chocolate flavor.  But there just wasn’t any at that time.  In exasperation, I heaved a sigh that could rival that of the wind’s in trees, when I couldn’t find the marshmallows of my desire even after an exhaustive search.  With my right hand on my forehead, I looked up to the ceiling, gritting my teeth.

 

That was when I saw it – piled haphazardly at the top shelf, some of them already looking a little dull.  I reached out for one pack (pack of four), looked at it, and nonchalantly threw a couple right in to my cart.  Yes, nonchalantly, but a part of me got excited with the thought of enjoying one of the most comforting food items I had discovered in the States.  As a matter of fact, I keep in mind a recipe of it that I got (yes, in the States), that for me, has just been simply the best.

 

The boxes said ‘Needs No Refrigeration’ but still, I arranged them in our age-old refrigerator.  After chilling them well, I took out one of the 3.5-oz. cups.  Using one of my many Oneida® Silversmiths long-handled teaspoons, I dug into the cup and scooped a heap of the chocolate pudding.  It looked sa delicious, velvety smooth and soft.  And as it caught glints of the kitchen’s lighting, it was as if it was asking me to give in to temptation.

enteng_hunts-chocolate-pudding-02

The chocolate pudding on my Oneida© Silversmiths long-handled teaspoon.

And I did.  The chocolatey taste was just perfect – not too sweet, and most of all, not pretentious.  The cornstarch in the ingredients gave the pudding its smoothness.  The box said ‘real non-fat milk is our #1 ingredient’ and yes, it was for it could only be the source of the pudding’s good old-fashioned richness (non-fat milk could give richness too!).  The pudding had a little oil and rightfully so, to give it its distinctive shine and to perfect its consistency.  All in all, it was more than what I would expect Php 79.00 (four 3.5-oz. cups!) could buy me!

 enteng_hunts-chocolate-pudding-04

As if I could never get any more sinful, I whipped 250-mL of all-purpose cream.  And without remorse, put a huge dollop on top of my second cup that night.  And since I felt a pristine white top looked lacking, I shaved dark chocolate on top before I took my first spoonful, licking away like a spoiled brat!

 

I’ve been wondering why a snack that good could be so affordable (not that I’m complaining).  But yesterday’s visit to the grocery revealed that its price had gone up – all the way to Php 95.00!  I didn’t mind.  It’s really good.  Chocolate-craving be gone!

enteng_hunts-chocolate-pudding-05





eNTeNG’s The Best Of… (Chocolatey) Snack straight from the grocery shelves (2nd in a Series)

12 12 2008
enteng_kinder-bueno-00

kinder bueno - one of eNTeNG's favorite (chocolatey) snacks from right out any grocery shelf!

I  ACTUALLY have two items that made it to this installment of the series.  But the other one’s stock in the fridge at home just got totally wiped out before I could even take photos!  So, expect an update to this post over the weekend.  I hope!

 

For now, I’m starting off with something I have steered clear of for the longest time.  For some reason, the bright white-and-red foil packaging didn’t appeal to me.  So, how did I get to try them?  I received six packs thrown in for free with the MANY MANY 16-piece boxes of Ferrero Rocher© that I purchased at one point this year (for my Ferrero binge moments and to give to friends).  I hadn’t the faintest idea what the freebies were, so I went through the packaging.  And one thing immediately jumped out of it and made me bright-eyed with expectation – they were made by Ferrero S.p.A.!

 

kinder bueno’ (‘WITH MILK & HAZELNUTS,’ the label screams) is ‘milk chocolate-covered wafer with smooth milk and hazelnut filling.’

 

enteng_kinder-bueno-02

The actual kinder bueno bars are faithful to the image on the package. Yummy! Don't the strings of milk chocolate drizzled on the chocolate coating just look so tempting?

That’s about as succinct and, at the same time, as complete as one can get in describing these treats.  I could very well park my pen here (I’m on pen-and-paper mode right now) and just hope that you will go out and buy them for yourself.  But I guess I can go on for a few more words. 

 

I still remember the first time I had these.  Before I gobbled a quarter of one of the two bars that come in one package, I licked off the milk chocolate covering first.  It was a delectable blend of the smooth chocolate covering and what I surmised as chocolate sauce that was drizzled onto the bars and allowed to harden.  For milk chocolate, it was NOT annoyingly sweet.  I know of some people who will only have dark chocolate.  But I think, the sweetness of kinder bueno is something they will be able to tolerate.  It was a plus too that it was just so velvety.

 

enteng_kinder-bueno-01

That thick center - of milk and hazelnut filling - is just too good to resist. Its light texture is perfect in giving character and body to the blend of flavors.

As the milk chocolate submitted to my insistent licks, it revealed the yummy brownish layer of wafer.  The wafer gave a crunch that reverberated within the walls of my mouth.  With each bite I made, the crumbling wafer helped scoop up the smooth milk and hazelnut filling that was snuggling inside it.  By filling, in this case, I don’t mean cream like whipped cream.  Though it’s not the ganache you would find in truffles too.  It’s a rather thick consistency that looked so crumbly.

Every component just felt so light – the milk chocolate, the wafer, the filling – but with each chew, I realized just how substantial and satiating kinder bueno could be.  I’ve loved Ferrero Rocher© all this time.  And munching on kinder bueno is a feeling akin to munching on Ferrero.

 

I brought a lot of these with me to work today and I shared them with friends.  Superman would’ve loved this!  As you shall see on the pictures, I used my old-but-trusty IBM ThinkPad T42 as foil to these luscious confections.

 

It would be nice to put this on your shopping list the next time you hit the grocery shelves.  At just Php 40.50 for a 43-gram pack of two bars, kinder bueno is such a steal.

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"Bite me!"... kinder bueno on my laptop.





eNTeNG’s The Best Of… Breakfast (‘An Introduction’ and 1st in a Series)

10 12 2008

A week after my birthday in 2000, I wrote an essay I entitled, ‘Over Coffee.’  And yes, I unashamedly forced it down my friends’ throats.  I sent them copies and ended up short of quizzing them about its contents – just so I knew they did read it!

enteng_leisure-coast-02

The best of breakfast at Leisure Coast Resort... was very affordable. Only Php 600+ for full breakfasts for four very hungry people.

In that work, I recognized that most of the good years and the good times of my life and my friendships had been punctuated by coffee.  And now I have to say, by food too.  And as I have said, I’ve been toying around with the idea of sharing my own ‘eNTeNG’s The Best Of…’ a.k.a. ‘eNTeNG’s Favorite Things(?)…’.  From the moment the thought of doing this ran through and ricocheted in my mind, it had been so persistent – an itch that had been dying to be scratched.

 

Whatever will make it under this ‘The Best Of…’ header, is purely eNTeNG’s opinionated voice speaking.  Without a doubt, all the ‘best’ items here were judged by no other than me, myself, and I.  So I won’t be too hard on any reader who would end up violently reacting.

 

Quite fittingly, my first selection is for the best of breakfast.

 

And in this world of fastfood chains that had sprouted everywhere, I surprised even myself with my selection that found me going all the way up north to Dagupan City in the province of Pangasinan!  It was a plate of hot garlic fried white rice; sidings of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes; a cute mound of “atsara” (pickled shredded unripe papaya, with carrots and shallots); and, the shining star that had got to be the crispiest, tastiest, most flawlessly executed deep-fried vinegar-marinated milkfish that I’ve ever come across!  I found this unassumingly simple platter at the eight-year-old Sabina Restaurant of the Leisure Coast Resort.  And my finding it was quite serendipitous.  I was in that beauteous resort, with friends, to attend the wedding and emcee the reception of two of my best friends – James (Spider-man!) and Juvy.

 

I had the milkfish for two consecutive mornings there and up to today, nothing has come close to it.  All I can do is look back to how perfect it was.  The flavor was awesome, as I got right away how the salt, black pepper and white vinegar blended harmoniously, infusing every shred of the fish meat with undeniable flavor that complemented well the resulting fried-to-golden-brown-perfection texture.  I loved the crunch that came resounding with every bite as if what I was having were crispy chitlings.  The first that would hit me was the subdued acidity from the vinegar, made more defined by the salt and rounded by the pungency of the black pepper.  Because of all these, hard as it was for us, we couldn’t leave any piece – not even a small one – for any cat to enjoy.  And I love cats.  Alex (one of our engineers) actually finished everything from the head to the tail.  No sign of the tasty fish dish was left on the plates.