My 35 Year Love Affair

Daily Instant Ramen (Tom Yum flavor) with egg, chicken sausage & veggies

It has got to be one of the longest relationships I’ve had with only one major breakup.  It was an introduction by my mom and dad when I was young.  In fact, it was something that my mom made sure I could depend on – instant ramen.  There were always a bunch of 10 cent packages in the pantry, and if I was at home alone, it was my go to. My mom even showed me how to enhance the noodles with lunch meat, a hardboiled egg, and some lettuce.  There was never any stigma against it due to the high amounts of MSG or that it is highly processed. I was told that it was MSG that made it taste so good.

There were also plenty of packages of ramen in college to be cooked in the electric hot pot at any hour of the day.  In San Diego, with the guidance of my California resident suite mates,  I learned about the variety of brands of instant ramen at the numerous Asian markets.  My goal was to try as many different flavors and brands as possible to find my favorites versus the typical pork Maruchan brand.  Quite frankly, it was an inexpensive research project. 

When I moved to Boston for optometry school, I was on a student loan budget so ramen was a staple in my diet.  This is the time that I built my meal creativity.  I became good at stir fried noodles, crispy noodle dishes,  as well as different soups.  It was also a pivotal time when I concluded that when I became a doctor and started making money, I would cease eating ramen as a sign of success.  A few of my friends admitted that they also had this commitment to shed their associated poor man’s food once they were finished with grad school.  One included chicken wings and another was pasta with Ragu spaghetti sauce.

So I probably stopped buying and eating instant ramen noodle for about 10 years as a symbolic gesture.  It was a big break up.  And I didn’t miss it one bit. There would be the occasional mention – like when I bought a hot pot as a gift along with a case of ramen noodles for a college freshman, but nothing in my home.   It wasn’t until I decided to stock my office drawer with snacks and foods.  I bought nuts, chips, teas, and cookies.  This was a good variety of foods, but nothing that I could call lunch.  I finally broke down and bought a few packets of ramen noodles.  Once it became part of my office arsenal, it was something i actually looked forward to making and eating.  I once again added leftover meats, veggies, and my favorite, eggs.

To compound my eternal love of ramen, I started packing noodles for international trips.  They are easy to make on a flight as well as in a hotel room.  This is especially true  in the middle of the night when my stomach is growling, and breakfast at the hotel cafe is a couple hours away until opening.  There has been a huge surge in ramen joints everywhere so my craving for ramen is satisfied by REAL ramen.  Near my office, there are 4 places that serve amazing ramen with excellent broths and cha siu. I’ve also experienced the slurping in Tokyo and across the US.

Recently, I was in India in which I ate Indian food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a solid week.  Although it was delicious, I had a craving for something else, so a package of ramen made it to breakfast with the addition of some chicken sausage, egg, and some cabbage from the buffet.  It actually made me happy (above photo is my ramen in India).

I certainly do not think I am alone with my love for ramen.  David Chang’s “Mind of a Chef” addresses noodles and included a scientific segment on MSG that had me watching that episode twice. It’s always good to give props to something/someone who makes my life easier AND better.  As silly as it sounds, I’m so glad you are in my life, ramen.

Chinese Deliciousness


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I am a dumpling addict.  It all started with xiao long bao (小笼包) – abbreviated to XLB – which I had at Din Tai Fung in Shanghai’s Xintiandi. XLB are pork dumplings that have a delicious rich broth inside. You eat them by dipping them in black vinegar & ginger, taking a small bite of the dumpling skin to let the steam out, sucking the soup from the dumpling, and popping it into your mouth.  I think these rank up there as the perfect bite of food conceived by man.

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A year ago, I found a new dumpling obsession.  My friend introduced me to Shengjianbao (生煎包). These crispy-bottomed dumplings are filled with pork and broth, pan-fried, and garnished with sesame seeds and chopped green onions.  Amazing!

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During my most recent trip to Hong Kong about a month ago, I discovered Lau sha bao (流沙包), salted egg custard buns.  It is sweet and a bit salty, but that yellow filling just oozes out and there’s nothing to say except, “OH MY GOD!”  My sister was in Hong Kong during the same time, and when I put one on her plate, she refused it.  I asked her to take one bite, and the smile on her face said it all.  The next morning at breakfast, she told me that she was dreaming about the bao.

I can’t wait to find the next bite of deliciousness.

 

Raise Your Glass & Say “Cheers”!

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Today we are celebrating the 7th anniversary of Crush2Press! This is my first time acknowledging a milestone, and I can’t pinpoint why except for our low key approach as an organization.  I am proud of the company, its mission (to capture the craft and personality of the winemaker onto the label), and the philanthropic aspect.  I thought it would be cool to tell you how we got started, and why we believe it does well.  We’ll do a few shout outs to those who have inspired us and those who help us continue our good work.

Our beginning:
Can you believe that it started as simple as attending wine tastings in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago with my cousin, Jeff Chang?  We started to get to know the people pouring us wine, and eventually became friends with Greg Gauthier.  His passion was to have his own label, and it came into fruition a couple years later.  During one of his Chicago visits, he asked my opinion on label designs, and I felt that the first couple vintages were not conveying his personality or craftsmanship.  I asked if I could have a shot at developing a concept for branding Gauthier vineyards, and we hit a home run (thanks Stephen Slater!).  Immediately after that success, we formed Crush2Press, Inc.
Dr. Scott Pouyat came up with the name Crush2Press which is a great play on words.  It’s the perfect name for our company because “crush season” is such an exciting time for the winemakers, and seeing their wine label on the bottles is such a gratifying feeling. It also incorporates the marketing aspect of our business: from nailing the client’s vision to actual printed materials.  Dr. Pouyat also is the top supporter of Crush2Press lending his expertise to the administrative side of the business.

Our success:
In essence, C2P is a small business consortium with a corporate sophistication.  From the boutique winemakers, to our talented designers & suppliers, and to our clients; it’s a community of like minded folks wanting to contribute their creativity to the process.
It works so synergistically that we’ve been able to add a philanthropic component and give most of our profits to causes we strongly believe in.  And we are convinced that this is why we are all successful.

Infinite Thank Yous & Shout Outs:
Jeff Chang for being a compadre in our wine drinking education
Greg Gauthier for giving us the opportunity as our first client, but first as a friend
Jorge Ojeda for being so creative yet so accurate in your work
Dr. Scott Pouyat for being a wonderful husband, supporter, and creator of the Crush2Press name.
Our clients & suppliers- let’s keep doing this better and better.
I say it’s time to celebrate!

 

CSA – “Locally Grown with Love and Dedication”

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Have you heard of CSAs?  “Community Supported Agriculture is a direct relationship between local farmers and consumers. Consumers support the farm by purchasing shares of the harvest. In turn they receive seasonal, fresh and nutritious food for their family on a weekly schedule. By making a financial commitment to a farm, consumers become “shareholders” of the farm. Farmers usually ask shareholders to pay up-front for the food. This helps the farmer with much needed revenue at the beginning of the growing season. The shareholder then participates in the success of the farm throughout the season.” (from www.genesis-growers.com)

Genesis Growers is a farm in St. Anne’s, IL that has been delivering fruits, vegetables, and herbs to our home for two seasons.

Here’s how our CSA works.  An email is sent on Wednesday and Farmer Vicki gives us some insight of what’s going on at the farm.  She discloses what we are going to receive in our box, and maybe  a tip or two on how to prepare the food. She writes from her heart, and we really like how she answers everything so promptly.  This is a verification of her tagline “Locally grown with love and dedication.”

We have the luxury of having them drop off our box at our front door.  It’s like Christmas every week to me.  I am amazed how beautiful the veggies are, and how delicious the fruits taste.  The colors and smells of the foods are intoxicating.

One of the interesting things is how long the food stays fresh. The lettuce you purchase at the grocery store seems to wilt and brown within a few days.  The lettuce from the farm can last up to a month!  And this bodes the question: How long does the food take to get from the farm through the grocery stores and to the consumer?

The CSA opens the door to creativity in the kitchen.  Last year we received a lot of kale and beets. It is still a fun challenge to try new recipes for my family to enjoy. My 9 year old daughter can make homemade kale chips by herself!

Lastly, it is an inspiration that we are respecting the land.  Farmer Vicki practices sustainable farming, and this has motivated us to do our part in reducing our carbon footprint.  We’ve implemented a strict recycling system, we compost, and we utilize the water from our new rain barrel to water our plants.  Sure, there’s even more room for improvement, but I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken.