Monday, August 31, 2009

My Family's Garden

I went to see my family this Saturday, and it was a warm, lazy, mosey-moving sort of day too. The morning was just made to stroll around in a garden, coffee cup in one hand, camera in the other. The sun shone just enough to warm the skin, without causing one to sweat profusely. The summer in Seattle this year has been hot—almost unbearably so. But as a result, my parents’ garden flourished.

The winter was harsh this year, causing a tree to nearly keel under the weight of the snow. Funnily enough, my mother improvised with the new change. As you can see, she decided to hang hanging baskets with fuchsias off the now-lowered branches.

The tree's shade did the trick in protecting the light and heat sensitive fuchsia!

My father's vegetables and fruits did very well this year too!

What a lovely day! What a great time to be in the garden, and what a summer!

My mother would tell you, her head shaking, that the garden is awfully messy. What with the uncontrollable growth of the weeds, the roses not being hedged properly, etc. I think it's perfect. It's perfectly imperfect.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekly Eats: Jack's Tapas Cafe

Welcome to the first installation of Weekly Eats on Joie Joie de Vivre! Each week, we will try to share restaurants, recipes, and foods that we love to eat. It is probably fair to say that there are two types of eaters: those that eat to live, and those that live to eat. If you are of the latter, sit down, and tuck a napkin into your collar. Saliva may cause your computer to short circuit. If you are the former, sit down anyways, and perhaps we can change your mind. At the very least, we’re going to give you a taste of what it is like to live in glorious gluttony. Every story has a beginning and the story of Weekly Eats is no exception.

I am lucky to have a tight-knit group of girlfriends, all of whom enjoy eating and appreciate a good meal. While it is certainly correct to say that friendships are built on trust, respect, and love, I think it is also correct to say that the trust, respect, and love begins simply by sharing a meal and conversation. For my girlfriends and me, the meals are usually at Jack’s Tapas Cafe and the conversations are always about life, work, and (of course) men. And I have to tell you something about hanging out with my girls. We shout. We laugh. We tell stories. We have a blast. And we are certainly NOT quiet. That is, until the food comes out. Despite the implications of its name, Jack’s Tapas Cafe is actually a Chinese restaurant that serves family style helpings of food. Once the platters of food are set out, the focus is entirely on the stir-fried hand shaven noodles, layered scallion bread, or three cup chicken hotpot. Alternately, sometimes we order the five spice beef soup, the braised pork belly, or the bean sprout stir fried with tofu strips. Then, for a solid twenty minutes, the only sounds heard from our table are slurps, sips, sighs of goodness, and the occasional camera clicks to document the temporary food nirvana.

Stir-Fried Shaved Noodles

My Tam and I both have a yummy history with this restaurant. My Tam knew it as a short-lived eatery, which served some of the best hand-shaven noodles she’s ever had, in addition to delicious, layered scallion bread. I knew Jack’s Tapas, as a fairly new establishment, after it had reopened. It was located two blocks down from my seedy apartment, and my roommates and I would celebrate special occasions with stir-fried Chinese eggplant and even more scallion bread. My Tam and I both think that the day I informed her that Jack’s Tapas was still existence as one of the best days of our friendship ever. At our most recent meal at Jack’s Tapas, My Tam came up with the idea of sharing this special place and others like it on our blog. The idea was absolutely wonderful, much like the woman who suggested it. The meal that inspired this brainchild is as follows: warm tea, stir-fried hand shaven noodles, flash fried tofu mixed with vegetables, and onion tortilla with egg. The noodles, scrumptious as always, were chewy, flavorful, with bits of garlicky beef tucked in. The tofu was crispy on the outside, yet silky smooth on the inside. The accompanying sauce and vegetables packed with spices rounded out this dish nicely. But oh, the onion tortilla! What a surprise! My Tam and I knew we were in for a treat when the waitress and co-owner of the restaurant told us while smiling that this dish, above all others, was her absolute favorite. The tortilla itself was light and fluffy and studded with green onions. Wrapped inside of it was a slightly seasoned omelette. It looked like a jelly roll that took the savory, less traveled path. And the taste was subtle perfection.

Flash fried tofu with vegetables

Onion Tortilla with Egg

Eating good food and sharing this experience with others is what we aim to do with Weekly Eats. Think of it as an opportunity to break (scallion) bread, or rekindle old friendships. The joy of eating lies within the food and with the people that one is sharing the fooding experience. And by this, I do not just mean your dinner-comrades-in arms. My Tam and I had finished our meal and were on our way out when the cooks of the restaurant came out to greet us. It was a slow evening and the Seattle sun was finally cooling down. Jack is a sweet man—shy, with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. Jack’s sous check was sweaty from his labor, but also, seemingly exuberant. Both men and the waitress were grinning hugely, as My Tam and I repeatedly said how much we appreciated our food. The great thing about food is that it has a bonding quality with everyone that is in some way involved with it, and for the most part derives joy for all. We had learned that day, thanks to in the inset of the menu, that Jack, "is so happy when standing in front of the wok.” And we couldn’t be any happier to keep Jack happy.

Photography by My Tam Nguyen
To learn more about Jack's Tapas Cafe:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Have a Cuppa

A Photo Collection of Drinks
I love lattes. This photo was taken at the Third Place Books in Ravenna Cafe. Pretty sweet, huh?

Mango juice and orange blossom lemonade. Photo taken by My Tam. Love the colors!

Tea time! Dao's palate cleanser at her final exam. Delicious on its own.

Another latte, this time from Cafe Flora. Added bonus: this is the barista's specialty!

Cider from Pike's Place Market. Heh, heh.

A concoction of My Tam's, carried out by Cafe Flora. Cringer + orange juice. GENIUS.

All photos modified by Poladroid.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bright Haute: Shout-out to Local Artist Kathi Mullaney

Kathi Mullaney is the sort of woman that makes you cheery. Handshakes are not a typical greeting. Think along the lines of a big hug. You cannot help but to smile. And her home is an extension of her personality. At a recent summer party for her children and their friends (and yes, I was lucky enough to be invited. No party crashing necessary here!), I got to see her beautiful home, her studio, and Kathi’s lovely lamps.

Walking around Kathi’s home, I was like a kid in a candy store. With about a million dollars to spare. I just ate up the coziness and homey-ness of it all. And I’m still starving. I was able to admire the lovely rock lamps, where the base is made entirely of pebbles cemented together. Topping this was a custom made lamp shade. The material was heavier, patterned linen. Shown below is an example.

My particular favorite was the lamp base made of beach glass and seashells. The blue and green color combination from the beach glass layered on top each other, with the light bouncing through them, produced a summery seaside incandescence. Pictured below is an example of what I’m trying to describe.

Kathi is also a talented ceramic artist. Have a look! It makes me sort of giddy, almost as if I were in Santa’s workshop.

I really like the details that she puts into her lamps. And how cool is it that a lamp can be both functional and fabulous? I know that there is much encouragement to buy and support local businesses, such as Kathi’s. I also know that there are many good reasons for this, economically and socially. Independent businesses: 1) typically recycle more funds back into the community, providing for further enrichment of the people in the community, 2) allow for increase in product diversity and selection, and 3)are typically more sustainable compared to chain stores, due to the need to be efficient with resources. I’ve only listed a few of the reasons why buying local is important—there are many, many more. But pssst…here’s a secret: I think the best reason to support your local businesses is because you get to know the people behind the work. Like Kathi, the embodiment of kindness and welcoming. It’s almost too coincidental that she has chosen to make lamps as a career. How many quotations are there out there about light casting out darkness, or light being a friend? It is all too fitting here because what makes Kathi’s lamps and work so interesting is that you can really see the artist behind the art. What I’m really trying to say is, you can see the wonderful woman, mother, and friend behind a perfectly metaphorical, bright and warm light.

Images from Kathi’s blog:
Kathi’s work can be found here: