A Chicago institution since 1949, Garrett Popcorn Shops make incredibly tasty cheese popcorn and incredibly crunchy-sweet caramel corn. And, they sell the two flavors as a “Mix” (the first mashup??) that’s a bagful of heaven. OK, somewhat expensive heaven, but hey, did you think the pearly gates would come cheap? Continue reading →
The Bagel is a boisterous, old-fashioned kosher deli in the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, where Erin and I eat every time we visit Chicago. I always order an egg cream, a soda fountain fave from New York that I’ve never been able to order in Denver. Erin’s favorite is the Mish Mash, a gigantic bowl of chicken noodle soup with a huge matzoh ball floating in it, eclipsing a kreplach dumpling, rice and kashi. They also serve a delicious — if a tad on the dry side — homemade corned beef hash.
I wrote about my experience growing up eating at Benihana for special family occasions, and how in recent years, the restaurant only has one connection to being a Japanese eatery: its food. The staff at the one we go to, for instance, used to have one Japanese woman chef, which was a rarity in the entire company, but she’s been gone a couple of years now. The waitstaff and cooks are all non-Japanese, and as far as I can tell, the chefs are all Latino. They love to tell jokes about how they serve “Teri-juana” sauce (get it? Tijuana, teriyaki?).
They no longer are sent to Japan to train with master chefs like they used to decades ago. But they are all trained well as entertainers, and come up with some amazing tricks with their knives, throwing food around and catching the morsels. The food’s still good, which is why we go from time to time… probably once a year, if that. (YouTube has a lot of videos of dinners at Benihana, including the one above, of a birthday celebration. Most evenings at the restaurants are interrupted by the clatter of multiple birthday celebrations.)
The diners likewise are no longer Japanase or JA families. The diners are almost all white; a couple of weeks ago, we were the only Asians in the room. Continue reading →
Erin, our friend Joe Nguyen and I dined the other night at Korea House, a popular restaurant in Denver (actually, Aurora, the eastern suburb, where the Korean community is concentrated). The dinner was part of an arrangement by Korea House to advertise in Asian Avenue Magazine, and we were there to write a preview of the eatery.
We had the full spread of Korean barbecue — Bulgogi (marinated sliced beef), Calbi (marinated beef shirt rubs, cut off the bone) and Spicy Chicken — as well as some Soon Doobu (seafood tofu stew) and Bibimbab (meat and vegetables served with spicy sauce over rice). The food was good (I’ll post a link to the advertorial when it’s up) and the experience was fun. Continue reading →
We just snuck out after a couple of hours of Denver’s annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebration, an event sponsored by Colorado’s APA umbrella organization, Asian Roundtable. This free event has been going on for over a decade, and it’s held every May in a community auditorium at the Well Fargo Bank building in downtown Denver.
The Asian Roundtable represents two dozen APA organizations and for-profit companies as well as some individuals. Its member organizations sponsor the event, which runs from 11 am-4pm on a Saturday, kicking off with a buffet and then featuring several hours of performances.
I was involved with this event when I was the president of the Mile-Hi chapter of the JACL, almost 10 years ago. Back then, I appreciated the event because it brought Asian communities together to learn from each other. I was surprised at the time that Asians knew so little about each other’s cultures. One year the JACL brought some basic sushi for people to taste, and people kept asking me, “What is that?” (Sushi, or wasabi.) “What’s the soy sauce for?” (The sushi.) “What does this taste like?” (Try it and see, lady.)
Then it struck me — Asians are so tribal and insulated from each other, that they don’t know anything about the other Asian cultures. I admit, I didn’t exactly grow up eating Filipino or Thai or Vietnamese food. But I’ve embraced all those cuisines, and more, every chance I get. Many Asians (especially older Asians) don’t do this. Continue reading →