The Best Wanderlust of Them All: Peilin Corbanese- Coming Soon this Fall

I had an interesting text conversation with three friends this morning. I asked the question, “I think I want a new last name. What should it be?”

A quick background: I have got three distinct identities, two passports, and one divorce coming up shortly. I was born Taiwanese and 1/3 of time I feel like Taiwanese or more precisely I feel like Tsai Peilin, 蔡沛伶. I am also a Corbanese, a name I have used since the beginning of my career and has given me both the French and the Italian cultures and motherhood. I feel like a Corbanese 1/3 of the time. The last 1/3 is the person I am putting together that will integrate the first two and carry me forward.

One of my friends is a Taiwanese American married to a Taiwanese American, living in Jersey. She wants me to revert back to my maiden name, 蔡Tsai, which no one can properly pronounce in the US. Plus “Peilin Tsai” is really not who I am anymore and gives out the wrong impression.  I am only 蔡沛伶 Tsai Peilin when I return to Taiwan. But my friend insists that I am always 蔡沛伶Tsai Peilin, no matter what I think or feel.

The other friend is also a Taiwanese American married to a German-Indian, living in Dallas. She wants me to pick my favorite movie star’s last name (imaginary husband, she says) or a character I can identify with from a book. It’s a big no no on the imaginary husband – Oy! I have come too far to take someone else’s last name. Then I put Caulfield after Peilin and that did not sound right. She then suggested a heroine – yep, we are doing better. Then “Clinton” came up! OMG, that’s also a husband’s last name! What are we doing, girls?  Why do so many strong independent women take on their husband’s last name?

My third friend, another Taiwanese but not an American. She is married to a Swiss-German or German-Swiss (Sorry, Amay, I don’t remember.) living in Holland. She suggests that I create a new word using my Taiwanese last name. She also suggests that it does not have to be “English-Made.” All three of them feel that I need to merge my identities instead of keeping them separate.

Being a marketer, I can totally see myself blogging and advertising,

“You may think you know her but you don’t. Peilin Corbanese- Coming soon this Fall, Peilin ??????”

Just like a movie preview with a soundtrack of a racing car vroom vroom vrooming. This is the best wanderlust of them all. #WanderlustPeilin Corbanese

Thai Spice in Norwalk, CT – Authentic Food Served by Teenagers

This was a funny little experience. I ended up in this stretch of suburban sprawl in Norwalk, CT, hungry. Looking around me, there were corporate parks, bad Chinese food take outs, genetic diners, fast food joints, liquors shops and massage parlors. As I was getting desperate, I saw Thai Spice, squeezed in between an empty office front and a massage place. The menu looked authentic and I went in. imageTod Mun: fried fish cakes, cucumber salad and crushed peanuts. The restaurant was empty and all the wait staff were in the back, eating dinner. They didn’t care to take the order; didn’t care whether there were utensils on the table; didn’t bother to even place the dish in front of me. The slid my big bowl of soup across the table to me – like slow motion bowling.imageNua Nam Tok: beef, lettuce, onions, lemongrass, roasted rice and mint. So good. The onions were strong. The beef was tender and the roasted rice smoky.imageThai Green Curry: coconut, vegetables, lime and green curry paste with shrimp.imageThai Boat Noodle Soup: beef, beef balls, rice noodles, and beef broth. Almost as good as the Vietnamese Pho and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The broth was tasty. The noodles were infused with the beef aroma. It was very satisfying!

Despite the service, the food was amazing. Authentic, delicious and fresh. If this were a take out place or a strand in the food court, I wouldn’t complain at all. But with the restaurant set up, the dismal service by the teenagers was disappointing. I seriously consider skipping out on the bill because I didn’t think they would have noticed. I also considered calling the restaurant owner – I doubt the owner would be ok with paying all these people to not serve the customers.

This experience took place at

Thai Spice

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center
345 Main Ave #2,
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 846-3533

 

River Tavern in Chester, CT – Goooooooooooal

A friend of mine convinced me to drive two hours to Chester, CT (population < 4k) to try out River Tavern, a farm-to-table New American restaurant. I was impressed. I did not imagine such well-executed dishes from an eclectic menu could exist in the middle of nowhere. We spent a lot of time discussing where the customers of this restaurant could come from.image Chester, CT is an hour away from New Haven, CT. This is a little town with only one main street and one busy block.image River Tavern is very particular about everything, from the tea-pot, tea cups to how much the wait staff know about the menu. They are knowledgable and extremely detail oriented. You can tell that the owner has high expectations and the staff cares deeply.imageRiver Tavern’s menu changes daily. Thank goodness I took pictures of the menu on Feb 28th. This is the Smelts: Fried smelts with celery root remoulade, rye crisps, dill + lemon. You may think fried smelts are heavy… Yes, that is possible. But you have not tried them with the dill + lemon sauce. It was excellent!imageP.E.I. Mussels: sautéed with merguez, garlic, chilies, oregano, tomato paste + wine. I ordered this dish because I have never seen Prince Edward Island mussels cooked with merguez before. Unfortunately, the merguez was used in the pot and not served to the customers. Even more unfortunately, I could not taste the merguez in the broth nor the mussels. Other than that, this was an excellent dish as well.imageSoeltl Farm Beef Burger: cheddar cheese, homemade pickles, ketchup + green on brioche, served with french fries. Best burger ever! Cooked perfectly medium and juicy. The homemade pickles were awesome. The fresh veggies were just better on the  burger than those that are a day old.imageFalafel: fried + served with hummus and a cucumber, lettuce, pickles onion salad, spiced yogurt sauce, pine nuts, lemon + olive oil. Decent to almost excellent.

Interestingly, they also listed Pho on their menu and I was tempted to order Pho in the middle of nowhere CT. After I grilled the server again and again on how the Pho is prepared, I decided to go against it because they ran out of Hoisin sauce. I believe I made the right choice since the burger really scored! This reminds me of listening to the soccer games on the Spanish radio station… Gooooooooal.

Highly recommend it.  Will go back again and again.

This experience took place at

River Tavern
23 Main St
Chester, CT 06412
Phone:(860) 526-9417

Curry Chicken with Mac and Cheese – An Unbelievably Good Combo That Warms the Heart

Would you have considered eating curry chicken wings with mac and cheese?

No! I wouldn’t either. But it was such a delicious combination when the umami in the cheese complements the spiciness in the curry. The fat in the wings added the smooth texture to the pasta. The meat on the wings balances out the fat and the simple carbohydrate. It was darn good!imageWhat the combo looks like when mixed together. That’s right – you must mixed the two. For those of you who don’t like your food touching each other, this dish is not for you.image Mac and Cheese just fresh out of the oven.imageCurry cooking in the pot with the chicken. Tasted too spicy and not enough balance – but not so fast – mac and cheese took care of that concern easily.

A friend of mine made this for me. Not only was it savory and delicious, it also warmed the heart. Friendship rules. Thank you.

Oceana in Manhattan, NYC – The World Is My Oyster, A Matter of Food and Life

I have been thinking a lot about how to write this post because the experience was not only about the food. The food played a big part for sure but the experience was more about connecting the dots in life, much like how the oysters showed up on the plate for me that night. Oceana is a seafood restaurant located on 49th Street and Ave of the Americas in New York City. It’s supposed to be a great one with a premier locale.

Oceana belongs to the Livanos Family who owns Moderne Barn in Armonk and City Limits Diner in White Plains. I was not aware of this fact until I did the research on Oceana post my dining experience.  Interestingly, the performance of Oceana is consistent with my experiences at both restaurants in the Westchester county. It’s consistently fine but not outstanding. Read my earlier posts, click here for Moderne Barn and here  for City Limits.image Chef’s compliment – Something about sunchokes with cream. Couldn’t really hear the waiter. It was good. imageOysters: Naked Cowboy (LI), Summerside (PEI), Dabob Bay (WA), Totten Inlet (WA), Fanny Bay (British Columbia), Tokeen Bay (AK).  I won’t point fingers since I am not 100% sure… I believe starting at 12 o’clock is the Naked Cowboy (2 each) and then rotate clockwise to Tokeen Bay. If that were true, Dabob Bays were really dumb! They were tasteless and meaty with a low salinity. Naked Cowboys and Summerside were everything one would expect from east coast oysters. They were beautiful, sweet and strong with a mineral taste. imageTamari Glazed Steelhead Salmon: soybeans, water chestnuts, shiitake broth. Excellent. Excellent. This was the best for the night.imageSticky Toffee Pudding: rum caramel, coconut ice cream, toasted coconut. Oceana’s dessert menu sounded very promising but the reality is far from satisfactory. This was ok but I certainly would not spend my calories on it.imageChocolate Layer Trifecta: chocolate cake, toffee crunch, chocolate crémeux. I love chocolate. Chocolate makes me happy. When a menu item lists chocolate three times, I expect the dessert to deliver a pleasant punch if not a high. Hershey’s kisses is the quality of this dessert. Mediocre and main stream. I had two bites.imageChef’s Compliments: They came by twice to try to give us the same complimentary dessert. My friend believes that the chef went out to a Duane Reade across the street and bought a bag of these to distribute to the diners. Sadly, they taste true to the Duane Reade candies.

Whenever I have oysters, I highly anticipate. Oysters are a representation of best things life can offer – smooth, alive, salty and sweet, mineral/floral, and filled with changes and surprises. They never sucked for me until those two dumb oysters that night. On that tray of twelve, some were pleasant highlights and two were not worth eating, reminding me to check my cavalier attitudes at the door, pay attention to my present-and-now, connect the dots and don’t let the restaurant bring their oyster sampler. Take charge to find that oyster high. Live deeply and fully.

Consistently with the other Livanos Family restaurants, Oceana was fine but not outstanding.

This experience took place at

Oceana

120 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

A Digression from Food – Lessons from My First 10K Race

Ran my first 10k race at the FDR Park today. This was the St. Patrick’s Day Race, hosted by the Taconic Road Runners. Ran 11.06 min per mile on average with a total time of 1:08:49.3. Not terrible for someone who did not train and just showed up today. But it was also not great since my first mile was a 9 min mile.
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Lessons learned:

  • Train well in advance of a race- run 3 to 4 days a week. Run more than 3-4 miles each time
  • Eat less and run more – I burned less than 200 calories with the 10k. Run to eat!
  • Need a drill sergeant or a SoulCycle instructor to yell at me while I run

When I was in mile 5, there were two much older gentlemen running on the opposite side.  One asked me, “What part is hurting now?” It took me a little bit to understand the question because nothing was hurting! The other one asked me, “Are you in the race?  Do you know you only have less than a mile to go?”

I was meandering… with music in my ears. The two gentlemen properly kicked me into gear and I took off for the last mile. I was endorphin-filled for the rest of the afternoon.

LOVE. LOVE. LOVE TO ALL.

Oriental Garden Restaurant 福臨門海鮮酒家 in Chinatown, New York- Dim Sum Brunch Anyone?

My sister and I met up in Oriental Garden in Chinatown for a dim sum brunch. In the last twenty years, I ate only once in Chinatown. Recently, I ate at Shanghai 456 and now Oriental Garden. I did not have a great experience at Shanghai 456 and hoped that Oriental Garden would be better.imageBaked Cha Shao Bao 叉燒包imageFried Dumpling, Chew Chow DumplingimageRoast DuckimageTurnip CakeimageSteamed Spare Ribs, Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice, Beef Balls and Shrimp Dumpling

Here is the comparison between eating in a good Chinatown restaurant (Oriental Garden) and eating in an equivalent restaurant in Asia:

The ambiance is much better in Asia
The service is better in Asia
The food is equivalent – the Chinese know how to cook!

Chinatown is good for tourists, the Chinese who live in the US and miss home, and the non-Chinese who need a little culture. Oriental Garden or not – really does not matter. They are all kind of good in their own way. But there is really nothing better than buying that ticket and get yourself on a flight. As soon as you land, you will be in awe of the difference. Take a deep breath in and let it soak in. The overwhelming amount of interesting food, the people, excellent service (no tipping required), and the culture.

I will not be home in Asia this Summer and it saddens me greatly. Chinatown – you and I will be much closer friends for the next few months.

This experience took place at

Oriental Garden Restaurant

14 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
Phone:(212) 619-0085