Thursday, December 9, 2010

November... Indian-Chinese, Cheering, Biking and Beef Parts

Sorry for a long post!  This has been a busy month with running and eating!

Right before Thanksgiving, the FRNY Multisport Mondays group got dinner after our swim workout.  Aneesh suggested we go to Tangra Asian Fusion in Sunnyside, Queens.  I'm generally not a huge fan of Asian fusion, since I think it usually take the most overdone aspects of Americanized Asian cuisines and combines it to make dishes that are completely boring and lacking of an personality.  But Tangra was different.  First of all, it was an Indian-Chinese place, which I've never been to before. The restaurant boasted of taking Chinese dishes and cooking techniques, and preparing them in the style (and with the spices) of Indian food.

But what made me really appreciate the food at Tangra was that it wasn't the sort of "Asian Fusion" that's invented by a chef or restaurateur because it's the trendy cuisine of the time, like all those places in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen that make a better lycheetini than a tom yum soup.  No, at Tangra, you got the sense that the cuisine was made out of necessity, by generations of ethnic Chinese expats who found themselves in the ghettos of Calcutta or Delhi, forced to recreate their favorite dishes with unfamiliar ingredients.  There were spices like cardamom, coriander and turmeric, rarely used in Chinese food, that worked very well in our dishes.  Overall, it was a very tasty dinner.  I'm hoping the Multisport Monday group makes these dinner outings a regular thing (are you reading this, Rachel?).

Derek playing with his food.

They brought out a big flaming ice cream platter for Philip's birthday! (It wasn't really his birthday, though)

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I spent a busy weekend in November cheering on Front Runners in various races.

The Saturday before Thanksgiving was the NYRR Knickerbocker 60k.  Yes, that's right, 60k.  Or 37.2 miles.  Or nine times around the middle four-mile loop of Central Park.  Seven Front Runners were crazy enough to run that race. This was Anthony's first Ultra, and I decided to help pace him during one of his loops.  I got him on his 8th loop, so by that time, he had already run about 28 miles.  He was in amazing spirits when I ran with him, and was even doing quite a bit of talking as I ran with him.

Anthony finished in 6:08:09, which is a 9:53 pace.  Personally, I think it's a little nuts to want to run for six hours straight.  But it's just amazing to me to see how much Anthony has really progressed as a runner over the past two years since he joined FRNY, and how he was able to set a goal of doing an Ultra and finishing it.  Congratulations, Anthony!!!

Here's a picture right after Anthony's 8th loop, as I handed him off to Kelsey to finish off the race.

Later that day, Kelsey, Jonathan (who had just done the 60k!) and I took a Chinatown bus to Philly, to cheer for the Front Runners running the Philadelphia Marathon (and to hit some gaybars).  Ten Front Runners went down to run the race, a few more did the half, and even more joined as part of Cheer Force One!

Ray K had an awesome sign.  People were cracking up as they ran by:

We had an ambitious plan to see the runners at four different spots along the course, miles 1.5, 5, 16 and 23. We actually were able to hit all four spots in time to see the runners go by (Although my original plan of jogging the four miles from mile 5 to mile 16 was replaced with taking a taxi.  It was much warmer and faster.)

One of the highlights of the marathon was seeing Ryan run a fabulous race.  After being sidelined with a heel spur for much of 2010, Ryan came back, stronger than ever, to run a 3:15:48, qualifying for Boston with 11 seconds to spare. Way to go, Ryan!

Bernie ran a great race too.  Here's team Cheer Force One celebrating her PR and BQ time of 4:00:38.  Awesome!

Afterwards, Cheer Force One celebrated in true Front Runners fashion by having a boozy brunch.  We went to Mixto, a Cuban place in the heart of Philly's Gayborhood.  I couldn't resist the "Bacon Bloody Mary," which was made with bacon-infused vodka and garnished with a slice of crispy bacon.  It was really good.  And potent.  :-)

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For Thanksgiving, I went to see my parents who live in San Jose, California.  While there, my older brother and I embarked on what is now a family Thanksgiving tradition--we made the trek up Mount Hamilton, which is the highest mountain overlooking Silicon Valley. The 19-mile road to the top rises over 4,000 feet.  I honestly can't describe how brutal this ride was.  I pretty much had enough after the first couple of miles.

Here we are about halfway up.  You can see the Lick Observatory, at the summit, waaaayyyy behind me.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say it took us about two and a half hours to reach the top.  So, like, 8 miles per hour average.  I can run faster than that!  The good thing is, I think we beat last year's time by almost an hour!  So maybe I'm getting better on the bike after all.

When we reached the top, there was snow on the ground and it was freezing!  But we got a good picture and were very happy to rest our legs a bit.

Going down the mountain was not as simple as just letting gravity bring us down.  There are two dips along the route, for about a mile or so each, where you have to go back uphill.  When I reached the first dip, my quads just completely gave out.  I had nothing left to give.  I had to get off the bike, and my quads were throbbing.  That's never happened to me before...they pretty much completely seized up.  I stood there for a few minutes, massaging them and trying to warm them up.  (I think it was a combination of the intense hill climbing, followed by the freezing cold descent that caused it.)  For the rest of the descent, I was in agony.  Even when I was just going down, I could barely muster up the strength to spin the pedals.  I had to stop another time to massage my quads.  It was pretty rough.

In the end, we finally made it up and down the mountain.  I was so glad it was over.  And I was ready to tackle some turkey.

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I mentioned before that my parents have a persimmon tree in their backyard.  When I came back to NYC from California, my carry-on bag weighed about fifty pounds, since my mom insisted I fill it up with persimmons.  If anyone wants some, I have about a million still left in my fridge.

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This past Sunday was the Joe Kleinerman 10k, a club points race.  The night before, I carbo-loaded / went drinking at Ralph's Italian Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen.  Ralph's is a kind of nondescript neighborhood Italian place, not one of my favorites, but Dane love it since he lives around the corner.  One thing I don't like is that their menu doesn't include my favorite pasta dish--linguine with frutti di mare.  But on this day they had a special: a linguine with frutti di mare that included a half a lobster AND came with fra diavolo sauce.  OMG so perfect!  It totally made my night.  :-)

The next morning, I could feel the glasses of wine that I had the night before.  I could tell when I woke up that it wasn't going to be a good race.

And in fact, it wasn't.  I probably ran faster on Saturday's fun run.  Oh well, whatever.  Maybe next year will mark my return to racing competitively.

Waaayyy underdressed for the 30 degree race!

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I'm kind of surprised that I've never posted a blog entry about my tasty homemade Chinese beef noodle soup.  It's one of my favorite things to cook, and it's my absolute favorite comfort food.  So I was excited that Mike Terry came over Sunday evening, which was one of the coldest days so far this year, because it meant I could make a nice big pot of "niu rou mian." (็‰›่‚‰้บต).

The meal started off with a trip to the Deluxe Food Market, my favorite Chinatown butcher, where I got all the tasty cuts of beef that I like.  First is beef brisket.  They call it "beef frank" at Deluxe food, which I don't really understand.  In Chinese food, the whole point of the brisket is not the meat itself, but the layer of gristle / silverskin that's attached to the underside of it.  You have to cook it for a long time in order to get it tender enough to be edible, but it has a fun, chewy texture to it.

Beef shank / shin meat is also a very gristley cut of beef.  But here, the gristle is marbled throughout, like the fat in a filet mignon, so that each bite is combination of tender and chewy.  Yummmm.  

Beef tendon is one of my favorites.  It's tough and rubbery if undercooked, but if you let it simmer for a few hours, it practically dissolves in your mouth, leaving a wonderful, gelatinous, meaty taste in your mouth.

Last was the tripe.  Cows have four stomachs, but the second and third one are the ones I think people usually eat.  The second one, called the "reticulum," is where honeycomb tripe comes from.  The third one, which I prefer, is called the "omasum" but is known euphemistically in Chinese as "100 leaves," since the many layers make it look like the pages of a book.  The thing with tripe is that before you cook it, you should boil it for a long time, a couple of times in order to get the stinkyness out.  After all, that's where all the digested food hangs out until it's ready to be...eliminated by the cow.  But once you get the smell out, it tastes really good.
100 leaves tripe, next to the "pork uterus," which I have never eaten.

To make the meat, I just simmered everything in a big pot for about two and a half hours.  In the pot was water, lots of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, brown sugar, Chinese five spice powder (which is a combination of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, Sichuan peppercorn, and fennel seeds), whole star anise, dried orange peels, some sweet bean paste, and scallion, ginger and garlic.  

Two and a half hours later, I cut up the meat, put it on some noodles with some of the braising soup, added some blanched baby Chinese broccoli shoots, chopped scallions and cilantro, and spicy bean paste.  Mmmmmmm....  the perfect way to warm up on a cold winter night.