Saturday, October 31, 2009

Peking Carbs

No running today.  But to make up for it I had two dinners (with runners).

Dinner No. 1 was at the Front Runners New York annual pre-marathon pasta dinner.  Like it does every year, the club went all out, bring in a bunch of different pastas and meat dishes.  Because I had other dinner plans, I just "sampled" some of the italian sausage and chicken.  And a stuffed shell too, haha.  Fortunately, I got pulled away before I had a chance to turn to the dessert table, which was looking pretty tasty.

Dane has family in town to watch him run his first NYC Marathon.  Dane's mom Diane generously offered to take out me and Ryan to dinner with Dane, his brother and his cousin.  I had suggested the Peking Duck House in Chinatown.  It's pretty much universally agreed that their Peking duck is the best in the City. 

I've actually never eaten there, but I've had their Peking duck before. I've been told that although their duck is amazing, the rest of their food is a bit underwhelming.  On a few occasions, my friend Jacky, who is the epitome of class, has bought a duck here for take-out, and taken it right over to another Chinatown restaurant to eat it with that other restuarant's food.  Jacky can get away with it because he knows everyone in Chinatown.  Anyways, after today's meal, I could understand wanting to do that. 

The Peking duck was excellent.  The skin was deliciously crisp and sweet.  The meat was tender and juicy.  For those of you who don't know about the preparation of Peking duck, it is a laborious process that fine restaurants raise to an art form.  Air is pumped underneath the skin to separate it from the meat.  After a dunk in boiling water, the bird is left to air dry.  The skin is glazed with a sweet syrup to give it its delicious taste and texture.  After drying for 24 hours, the duck is roasted until it turns a deep shiny brown.  It is best carved at the table, cut into thin slices on the bias so that each slice gets a lot of the crispy skin, and served in a pancake with hoisin sauce, cucumbers and scallions.  I feel like my mouth is watering as I type this, that was how good this Peking duck was. 

This rest of the meal was so-so.  Included with the Peking duck dinner was our choice of three entrees from a rather limited list of boring Chinese food.  (General Tso's Chicken, Chicken with Broccoli, Beef with Broccoli, you get the picture).  We tried to get the three most exciting dishes on the list.  We ended up ordering string beans with minced pork (not nearly as good as my long beans with pork); a beef and scallop dish; and a chicken/pork/shrimp dish.  The last two dishes were literally the exact same thing except for the different proteins.  Kind of a disappointment.

One bonus about this dinner was that when the waiter was carving our duck, I asked to take the carcass home.  He happily obliged and wrapped it up for me.  Someone's gonna have duck soup next week!  (The bummer is that it is one of those Chinatown ducks-with-their-heads-still-on, which gives me the heebie-jeebies.  If someone would do me a favor and decapitate it for me, I would be very grateful.)

When I got home tonight, I was pleased to see a small package from my mom.  My parents moved about a year ago to San Jose, California.  Their new house has a number of fruit trees, including lemon, apricot, plum and persimmon.  It looks like the persimmon tree is ready to harvest.  :-)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Carbs, Carbs, Carbs!!!

OK, now I'm starting to get excited.  Marathon weekend is in full swing, and carbo loading has begun!

Yesterday I went to the marathon expo.  To be honest, before yesterday, I didn't even know what corral I was in... all of my pre-race energies focused on Chicago, and until recently my participation in NYC was still up in the air.  But when I picked up my bib, it all started to sink in.  I suddenly rememered why I love the NYC marathon so much--running through the city I call home, feeling like a rockstar with millions of spectators cheering for me, and seeing my friends along the course and the Front Runners handing out water at mile 24.  When I saw my name on the monitor at the D-tag check, an feeling of excitement came over me, and I felt ready to take on the greatest race in the world.

And to further get me pumped up about the race, I randomly saw John and Mike.  Yay!!!

I had planned beforehand not to stay at the expo long, thinking maybe it would stress me out.  I also vowed not to buy any marathon paraphernalia branded "2009" ING NYC Marathon, since I was having some sort of irrational fear that buying any would jinx me and force me to drop out and then get stuck with all this marathon gear for a race I didn't finish.  Besides, I'm saving my money so I can buy an entire wardrobe of "2010 Boston" running clothes.  :-P

So I left the expo early, and went to the first of what is going to be three pasta dinners in a row.  Yesterday's dinner was at Le Zie in Chelsea.  They claim to have the "Best Spaghetti and Meat Balls in Manhattan."  I've had it before and it was quite good.  Last night, though, I opted for the Mezzemaniche with Sausage and Fennel in a Light Tomato Sauce.  I had to ask what mezzemaniche was since I wasn't familiar with it.  Turns out it's short tube with ridges, kind of like a rigatoni cut in half. 

It was really tasty.  I love fennel and I love sausage, and the two of them are a natural combination together.  For some reason, I've only cooked with fennel once in my life (and that wasn't even on purpose; I didn't have any star anise on hand but wanted to make Chinese beef noodle soup, so I improvised).  Anyways, this meal inspired me make something with fennel.  Stay tuned.

OK, off to pasta dinner #2!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Three days away

So it's three days before the NYC Marathon, and the whole city seems to be abuzz with pre-marathon energy.  The international runners have started arriving in town.  The stands at the finish have been set up in Central Park.  The NYC Marathon Blog is posting new entries so fast it's hard to keep up.  And, of course, my Facebook feed is constantly streaming with updates about last-minute anxieties and excitement, and news from the Expo, which started today.

Meanwhile, though I hate to be a Debbie Downer, I've been feeling like I haven't had the same level of excitement about this race as I did before my other marathons.  Running Chicago less than three weeks ago really wore me out, both physically and mentally.  I feel like I've spent the last two and a half weeks trying to recover (but not necessarily succeeding).  Before Chicago, I felt in great shape, and I was determined to get a PR and qualify for Boston.  But since then, I've been dogged by this nagging butt pain, which is back today after my five miler yesterday.  I also noticed something going on in my left calf, which pretty much came out of nowhere since I've never had an issue with that calf.  And although I don't think these physical ailments are debilitating, I feel like they've contributed to my somewhat ambivalence towards Sunday's race. 

I think another thing that contributed to this feeling was the fact that I could not think of a goal for the marathon.  I know I don't have it in me to get another sub-3:10.  But after my performance in Chicago, which I am so, so happy about, I feel like it's hard to get excited about doing a marathon that will be significantly slower.  This will not be my first time doing back-to-back marathons.  Last fall, I did Chicago and then NYC three weeks later.  This past spring, I did Virginia Beach, the Ohio River Runners Marathon, and Big Sur in the span of five weeks.  The difference with those times, though, is that with Chicago 2008 and Virginia Beach 2009, I had rather disappointing runs, and I was determined to do better on my next race.  This time, I know I can only do worse. 

So I've been trying to counteract that feeling and get excited about NYC.  Yesterday, I went to the FRNY fun run.  I wore my 2009 Chicago Marathon T-shirt to the run to put me in a good mood, and I'm happy to say it worked.  I let out a big gay scream when I walked into Rutgers Church because there was Josh, standing there wearing the same shirt!  That was a good start.  :-)

(BTW, Josh had an awesome race in Chicago, finishing in a ridiculous 2:49:23--that's a 6:27 pace!).

The Wednesday fun run before the marathon is actually one of my favorite runs of the year.  This is because it's usually the first time that I see the finishing chute all set up in front of Tavern on the Green, and that always gets me excited about the marathon.  I was happy to see it yesterday, and I pictured myself crossing that finish line and feeling so great at the end of the race.  It made me realize that I really did want to do the marathon, and that I was excited about running it.  My feelings otherwise were just the normal anxieties that everyone feels before the big race.  And I'm determined to channel that nervous energy into having a great race on Sunday.

Now I'm not trying to kid myself, either.  I'm not going to set a new PR.  But I'm going into it with a plan to have fun and do my best.  If I had to make a numerical goal, I think I'd like to get somewhere in the 3:20ish range.  Ideally, I'd like to start off slower and get negative splits.  But for me, this race is not about the time; it's about having fun, seeing New York, and running the greatest race in the world!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Running to Western Beef. Next stop, the marathon!

I'm happy to say that after my relatively successful run today, I've decided to go through with the ING New York City Marathon!  OK, it wasn't the greatest run ever.  But I finished it (albeit slowly) and felt good at the end.  I'm not going to be setting a new PR next week, but I feel like I can run it painlessly and without messing up my legs, and have a good time while doing it.

Today's run took me from my apartment down the WSH, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and back around the Greenway up to 16th Street, where I ended up at the market to buy groceries for a dinner party I was hosting tonight.  The run itself was OK.  I did it with Dane who's running his first NYC Marathon next week.  We took it pretty easy, and had to slow down considerably on the Brooklyn Bridge because there were a zillion tourists there taking in the first nice fall weather that we've had in a while.  My butt issue (which I've self-diagnosed--with the help of Alison, a Front Runner who's doing NYC three weeks after Steamtown--as Piriformis Syndrome) was noticeable, but not in a big way.  I also felt some tenderness on the top of my right foot towards the end of the run, but I think I can massage it out during the next week.

The run was a little slower and longer than expected.  And Dane and I spent way too much time at Western Beef buying groceries, which is easy to do since it is the best supermarket in all of NYC.  By the time we got all of the supplies to my house, it was 7:15, and we had to shower and make two lasagnas before a group of hungry gayrunners arrived at 8:00.  That was a pretty stressful 45 minutes.  To top it off, we had completely forgotten to get ingredients for a salad, so we had to get Ryan to pick some up on the way to my place.  I'm not sure how we did it, but a vat of sauce was made (decicious meat sauce with onions and mushrooms; I also threw in some ground up carrots for texture and Vitamin A), and by the time the first guests were arriving, the two lasagnas were assembled and in the oven.  My sauteed broccoli rabe and garlic bread were on schedule too.  And we were ready to eat by the time Josh arrived fashionably late at 8:30.

Because of the time constraints, some corners were cut with the lasagna.  I should have taken the foil off before it finished so the mozzarella would brown a little.  Instead, it was a bit of a gooey mess.  And adding to the gooey messiness factor, the ricotta in the lasagna was running all over the place after scooping out each piece.  I usually mix an egg into the ricotta, which I think guards against this exact situation.  Oh well, it was tasty anyway.

Somewhat less successful was the garlic bread.  For one thing, I had not baked it for long enough, so the not-fully-cooked garlic chunks were a bit overly pungent, to put it gently.  But even worse, something happened during the cooking process to turn all the garlic an unappetizing shade of bright green.  I have no idea why this happened, although it has happened to me once before.  The garlic had just been purchased today, and it looked fine after being put through the garlic press.  Was it because I used olive oil instead of butter?  If anyone knows, please leave a comment!

To finish off the meal, we had a plethora of desserts.  Mike Terry brought over some homemade rice pudding.  It was sweet and delicious, topped off with a silky meringue.  Derek brought over a sweet potato pie, which I really love this type of year.

And Ryan, urban planner by day and home brewer by night, brought over a homemade mead, which is a honey-based alcoholic beverage.  I had never had mead before, and am sometimes skeptical about home brews, but this was quite delicious.  It was sweet but light, a perfect dessert beverage.  I think Ryan said he just used honey, water, yeast and some raisins.  It sounded so easy to make that I might have to try brewing it myself sometime.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

So this is what it feels like to run into a truck.

I am somewhat embarrassed to report that my run this morning turned out to be another dud.  On a positive note, it was not because of any injuries or soreness, but rather a pain of a different sort, stemming from last night's festivities.

It began with dinner at Kati, a new Thai restaurant on East 14th Street.  I generally avoid the new trendy Thai places that are popping up everywhere in Manhattan because they all seem to be more concerned about their martini menus than their food.  But Fatai, who lives next door to Kati, had eaten there before and suggested we go.  I relented, and was immediately comforted when I saw posted on the door a (presumably favorable) review of the place from a Japanese newspaper--I figured if the Asians liked it, it can't be that bad.

We learned as we were being served that the restaurant did not yet have a liquor license, which meant for us...BYOB!  I love a good BYOB restaurant (see here, third item down).  Fatai, upon hearing the news, ran home and brought back a six pack of delicious Pabst Blue Ribbon, which had been sitting in his fridge since the last time I went over for dinner.  Classy.

To go with our PBR, we ordered a green papaya salad, pak mor (steamed little chicken dumplings in a rice flour wrapper), chicken green curry, and a ginger beef.  One thing I could not understand about this place was that they did not have pork as an option in any of their entrees.  That just seemed a little odd.  Is pork going out of fashion?  In any event, the food that we ordered was decent for trendy Thai, although I wasn't a huge fan of the dumplings--a little too peanutty/salty for my taste.  The curry could have had a little more spice to it, too.  Definitely can't compare to my favorite Thai place in the city, Pam Real.

The PBRs soon gave way to some stronger stuff at a birthday party we went to in Queens, and then to Sugarland in Brooklyn.  Needless to say, this morning I was not exactly enthusiastic about a run.  I surprised myself by waking up and making it to the fun run in time.  However, I quickly realized that perhaps it would have been better to have slept in. Within the first mile, I knew it was going to be rough.  I negotiated with myself in my head, lowering my planned four mile run to three.  As I neared East 72nd Street at the end of the lower loop, I made a split second decision and ended up bagging the run, choosing to save my energy for tomorrow's 10-miler.  I was too lazy even to run across the 72nd Street transverse.  So all that for 1.4 miles.  Counting the run from the church to the park, I'm logging this as 2 miles, dammit.

Back at the church, I was able to get some runners together to go to the Dumpling Festival, so we went down to the Sara Roosevelt Park in the Lower East Side.  It was a zoo there.  There were like ten tents where they were serving everything from gnocchi to potstickers to Filipino palitaws.  Each tent had like 50 people in line waiting to get their dumplings.  And in the back, this crazy loud woman with a microphone was emceeing the dumpling eating contest.  While we were there, some guy ate 53 dumplings in two minutes.  Apparently he had soaked them in water first, and then shoved them by the handful into his face.  It was a bit disturbing.

Our dumpling of choice was pierogies.  They had potato, sauerkraut and mushroom, and meat.  They were OK, although I'm not a huge fan of pierogies in the first place, and these weren't served with any kind of sauce at all.  And at $5 for a plate of three (the proceeds benefited the Food Bank for New York City), we thought we could do better.

So we went to my favorite dumpling place in the city, Vanessa's Dumpling House.  It's my favorite because you get four dumplings for a dollar.  And it's tasty.  They come in either pork and chives or pork and cabbage, and they're perfectly pan fried--crispy on the bottom and moist on top.  We each got some, except Mike, who got something I had never noticed on the menu before, a sesame pancake filled with Peking duck and veggies.  I had a bite and it was super tasty (and only $2.25!).  I think I might have to get it next time. 

Continuing on our whirlwind walking tour of Lower East Side cheap food, we next hit a cupcake place that Derek has been raving about for several weeks now, Sugar Sweet Sunshine.  Personally, I don't really understand this cupcake craze which is taking over New York and the world.  It also seems pretty outrageous that some places are charging $4 or more for a cupcake.  (The cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine were a relatively affordable $1.50).  Thinking that the cupcake would not mix well with the remaining effects of last night's festivities, I passed on it, although I did have a small bite of Chris's "Sunshine" cupcake (yellow cake with vanilla buttercream).  I have to say, the buttercream was light and wonderfully sweet, and the cake was moist and delicious.  A tasty cupcake?  Yes.  But something that I would go out of my way for to get again?  Probably not.

For an only-in-New York story that touches on cupcakes, sex change, lawyers and real estate, click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

NYC Dumpling Festival

The New York City Dumpling Festival is this Saturday.  The festival showcases various dumplings from all over the world, and includes the Sixth Annual Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest.  Last year's winner downed 66 dumplings in two minutes.  I am simultaneously intrigued and disgusted.

The festival is conveniently right after the FRNY Saturday Fun Run.  Anyone wanna join me?

Running to Duke's

I am not 100% sure whether I'm running the ING New York City Marathon next Sunday. I really want to do it, even if I don't race it.  I would love to do it as a complete fun run, without any pressure to get a time; that was what I did for the Big Sur Marathon in April, and it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable marathons.

However, after Chicago, I feel like my body has been beseiged with a number of aches and pains.  For one thing, my right butt/hip area has been bothering me since my 20-mile trail run over Labor Day weekend.  It doesn't really bother me when I run, but I can definitely feel it when I'm sitting or walking.  For the first week after the Chicago Marathon, I could not sit for long periods at my desk at work, and was convinced that I had a stress fracture in my butt--the pain felt like it was radiating up and down my thigh.  Last Thursday (10/15), I made an appointment with Dr. Jordan Metzl, my sports medicine doctor, but I couldn't get an appointment until next Monday (10/26).  In the interim, I no longer feel like I have a stress fracture, but I think I may still keep the appointment just to have him check things out.

In addition to my butt issue, I have tendon issues on the tops of both of my feet.  This is more of an annoyance than anything else; I'm thinking my shoes were probably tied to tight when I ran Chicago.  I've been massaging the areas, and applying ice when I remember to, but the inflammation doesn't seem to be going away. 

I pretty much took the week after Chicago off, running 3 miles on Friday 10/15 and 4 on Saturday 10/16.  Sadly, I decided to just cheer instead of run at the Asbury Park Relay Marathon, where the two FRNY teams came in first and second overall

My plan for this week was to run 6 miles at the Wednesday night fun run, and if that felt good, to do 10 on Saturday or Sunday, and if that felt good, I would do the marathon.  Well, Wednesday was a great run for me.  I was keeping pace with Mike Terry during most of the run (although he outkicked me over the last half mile), and I felt like I was flying up the hills.  I think taking those extra rest days really helped strengthen my legs. 

Yesterday, still on a runner's high from the day before, I headed out for an easy 4 miles along the West Side Highway.  This time it didn't go quite as well as the night before.  The Wednesday run definitely took a toll on my legs, and I felt this new thing developing in my right calf.  I ended up turning around and heading back after only 1.5 miles, figuring that it was better to rest up than to overdo it.  I still want to do a 10-miler this weekend; hopefully it will be a good run I'll end up deciding to do NYC next week.  Not sure if I'm going to do said ten-miler tomorrow or on Sunday, though--I got a long night of drinking ahead of me tonight, haha.

Speaking of drinking, I ended up using my $40 gift certificate to Duke's BBQ yesterday.  I got the gift certificate through Groupon, this collective buying service that emails you every day with a ridiculous deal that you can get if enough other people also sign up for the deal.  Most of the deals are restaurant gift certificates with a bunch of random other stuff thrown in.  Anyways, it was my first time at Duke's and I was in for quite a shock.  I think the place normally caters to a pretty fratboy-heavy crowd, but because of the baseball playoffs and a football game yesterday, it was ridiculous.  The good thing was, on football nights, they have $5 margaritas and $2 bud lights.  Oh, and $5 wings.

The runner in me is embarrasesed to say how much food was ordered.  But since this is a food blog...   we ordered the wings, the fried calamari and the full rack of ribs (with baked beans and cole slaw) to be split between two of us.  They were out of the calamari, so we ended up getting the "Smokin' Stack" instead.  OMG, that was ridiculous, but so good.  Onion rings, piled on top of a plate of pulled pork, with cheddar cheese and chipotle sour cream on top.  Seriously, not good for the arteries.  In case you're wondering: no, we did not finish everything.  In fact, I had one single rib and took the entire rest of the rack home.  I'll be working on that over the next few days, I think.

Heinz Ketchup Shrimp and Other Authentic Chinese Dishes

My first food-related blog entry is about a dinner that I cooked last Friday.  It's only first because my friend Serenity who came over took some pictures with her iPhone, and I think it's good to include pictures with my blog entries.  (Note to self, from now on, take pictures of everything I eat).

On the menu for that night were my world famous ketchup shrimp, Chinese long beans with ground pork, and jalapeno beef with Chinese sacha sauce.  Dinner wasn't ready yet when Serenity and J. came over, and they wanted to help out, so I put them to work assembling some vegetarian dumplings (I had some filling and store-bought wrappers left over from dinner the night before; my friend Maggie is a vegetarian).  As you can see, they did a pretty good job with the dumplings:

I, however, was having a hard time in the kitchen.  I was stir-frying the jalapenos for my beef dish, and I wanted to get them really caramelized so they could be eaten and not be too spicy (I had taken out the seeds and membranes before stir-frying).  Apparently, I got them a little over-caramelized (ie, burnt) because spicy pepper smoke started permiating the air.  I have no ventilation in my kitchen, so the smoke just lingered there for a while.  I opened the door to try to air out my apartment a bit, but it didn't really do much good.  J. started having a coughing fit and had to stick his head out the window in order to breathe.

The smoke eventually settled, and I was able to work on my other two dishes.  It was my first time cooking with Chinese long beans, which I love but for some reason have never used.  They're similar to green beans except they're about 12-18 inches long and have a slightly dryer texture.  One reason I like them over regular green beans is that, because they're so long, you use fewer of them, which means you save time because you don't have to cut the stems off a million little green beans.  They're also tastier, I think, especially since the dryer texture means they can absorb more of the delicious sauce that they're cooked in.

The last dish I made was one of my favorite dishes.  It's a sweet and tangy shrimp dish.  I put lots of garlic, ginger and scallions in it, along with soy sauce and sesame oil.  But the secret ingredient that makes the dish is Heinz ketchup.  It adds a sweet Chinese flavor that you can't get from anything else.  My grandmother made this dish.  (She also taught me to use ketchup in my fried rice, which I think is pure genius).  BTW, Laurent Tourondel uses Heinz ketchup in his cooking too.  Oh, I usually add some Concord Grape Manischewitz to it, for some extra sweetness (something tells me that ketchup shrimp isn't exactly Kosher for passover).  But I was out so I made do with Franzia instead.

All in all, a pretty tasty meal.


Anyone who knows me knows that I have two obsessions in life--running and food.  I've always had a love of eating, whether it's dinner that I make myself, a modest snack at a streetcart or a fancy meal at a Michelin-anointed restaurant. 

Running, though, was a more recent interest.  I decided to start running in January 2006, as a way lose weight after a year a living in Santa Fe, New Mexico and eating too many chicken enchiladas, and then beginning law firm life with a seemingless endless supply of Seamless Web and summer associate lunches.  I soon became hooked on the sport, not because it helped me to lose weight, but because I loved the adrenaline that I got after a great run and the friends that I met through running.  It was a bonus that I got to eat what I wanted and still stay fit.

It dawned on me last night, as I sat at Duke's BBQ Restaurant, a week and a half after the Chicago Marathon and a week and a half before the ING New York City Marathon, that I should combine my two passions in this blog.  I hope to chronicle my adventures in eating and running, and through this process perhaps bring to others some of the enjoyment that I've derived from these two activities.  Happy reading, and Run App├ętit!