Thursday, February 23, 2006

the power of color


One of the great joys of working at a design firm is being around people who are always trying to satisfy that constant craving for creative stimulus with the flavor of something new and different. I always welcome the samplings that land in my inbox.

I found two such recent tidbits to be particularly engrossing. As i struggle to learn about programming and html color codes to make this blog a bit more visually tasteful, I have started to think a lot about colors in general. These two items really helped bring color to life for me in a whole new way. (I'll try not to stray from food too often, but when there is something particularly good for show and tell, I cannot resist.)

The first is a visual mapping of the news, in the U.S. as well as in 10 other countries. It is updated real-time and color-coded by subject (world, business, sports, etc.). It's all information from Google, but made smart and swank.

The other is pure candy for the eyes and ears. View the extended version (make sure you have Quicktime). I found it wholly captivating.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

eating, drinking, and breathing

(with chorizo, mussels, clams, leeks, tomatoes, wine, shallots and garlic)

"Eating, drinking, and breathing - that's what it's all about." Our sagacious expert from the EPA spoke impressively about air when we interviewed him for my current project at work.

Chris and I spend our days at Continuum trying to define and design the ultimate experience around air. Air is difficult, because people really don't think about air. People do not invite each other to their homes to breathe. They do not have to worry about providing enough air for their families, or plan out which types of air to prepare for upcoming week. They do not watch TV to see who can whip up the best air in 60 minutes, and they certainly do not spend thousands of dollars on packages to sample the airs of Italy and France. For most people, air is really not what it's all about. And this is why work can get hard sometimes.

Luckily, we can always turn to eating and drinking when breathing gets to be difficult. Chris and I both revel in the much easier challenge of designing the ultimate experience around food. (Searching for the ultimate drinking experience is also a fine alternative.) People get food. They like it; they appreciate it. Here is a sampling of the latest from Chris's kitchen.


xin nian (belated) kuai le!


Happy Chinese New Year!

(I'm a little behind, but i hope that you have taken advantage of this time to read my previous post about the Bakery Cafe at Haley House.)

So the Year of the Dog officially began on Sunday, January 29 (solar calendar), and it was 4 days of non-stop partying for me. It began Friday night, when I split eastern-style chicken tenders (with sweet and sour sauce) at Chef Chow's with 10 or so friends. Our marathon banquet highlighted Peking duck, which was served wrapped in pancakes filled with scallions and slathered with hoisin sauce (which I have learned today to be a "combination of mashed soy beans, vinegar and flour, seasoned with garlic, chili peppers, sesame and salt" - good to know, I love that stuff). Unfortunately, the banquet did not include a stir-fry or soup (traditionally duck is served in two or three courses). But the roasted duck was definitely better than the one I had had at Quanjude in Beijing last fall. I was happy. For a more detailed account of our meal (and other wonderful stories about local restaurants in Boston), please visit, from my good friend and fellow foodie Bridey.

Sunday night I went with my family to what I have personally decided must be one of the best Chinese restaurants in Boston, Shangri-la (at least for Taiwanese-style food). Happy for my mom, it is located in Belmont. Happy for me, it is modest, unassuming, and still relatively undiscovered. Note: The Taiwanese brunch is particularly good here. Order the silken tofu with preserved thousand-year-old duck egg, topped with pork sung (fluffy, shredded dried pork) and scallions. Sounds gross but is totally awesome. I swear.

On Monday, the Design Strategy Practice at Continuum had our own celebration. I don't know if it will become a yearly custom for our group to celebrate Chinese New Year, but I do see it as a progressive and open-minded tradition to embrace. I approve! Can I also suggest having a Seder at some point? I enjoyed two Tsingtaos with my meal. I have to admit that when it comes to Asian beers, I like Sapporo much better. (Please do not take offense, my people - I realize that some still cannot avoid mixing beer with politics.)

But it was Saturday night - New Year's Eve - that I hope will set the culinary tone for this upcoming year. Simple, delicious food, prepared with people I love. Saturday was dumpling (jiaozi) day at home. My family hadn't made dumplings from scratch for years, but my dad felt inspired this year, and he whipped up three types of fillings - pork and bok choy, beef and chives, and pork and chives. He also made fresh dough for the wrappers from flour and water. Fresh wrappers make all the difference.

I really cannot take much credit for the delicious boiled dumplings that resulted, but I did fully participate in the wrapping process. I believe you can learn a lot about a person by how they wrap their dumplings. Look carefully, and you will see that everyone has a different way of wrapping dumplings, even if they learned from the same master (in my case, my grandmother).



PS. If you should happen to be a Dog, please try to be extra vigilant, as this may be a tumultuous year for you. Wear red clothing to ward off evil spirits (don't be surprised to see George W. flashing some red flair on C-SPAN - he was born in 1946, year of the dog).
PPS. Hint - should you be stricken with a dumpling craving minus the motivation to wrap your own, check out Wang Fast Food in Somerville, MA for a bag of frozen dumplings (my favorite - pork, shrimp, and leek).