Sunday, December 20, 2009

holiday cards - why oh why

seeing as it's december 20 already, i thought, what can i do to make things ridiculously hard on myself before i head up north for the holidays? yup, that's right, why don't i try making my own holiday cards again?

for the uninitiated, i've made my own cards the last three years to varying degrees of success (some clunkers, some pretty darn good). basically it came down to me waiting in line to buy a box of cards 4 years ago - the line to purchase was unending, and the design wasn't even that great to begin with.

i thought, i could make a better card and save money (?!?), so i put the box down and walked out of the store. several days later and nearly three times the amount i would have spent on the stupid box of cards, i was done with mine.

back then they didn't come out exactly the way i had hoped, but creating something with a personal touch left an indelible impression that day, so here we are. armed with more paper, envelopes, stickers, stamps, ink pads, glue, scissors, etc. than i know what to do with, i'm thoroughly embarrassed. so you better like your card damn it... XD

Friday, December 11, 2009

nailed a front flip!

tonight was open gym session at the LA school of gymnastics, so PKcali took over the joint and set up all kinds of fun stuff. got to work on a lot of moves that i would ordinarily have some hesitation with in the real world, but here it's a bunch of padded obstacles and springy cushion!

decided to try a front flip into a cushioned landing area, but my first few times i landed on my back. it's definitely disorienting, as i didn't know where the heck i was while in mid-air (with backflips, at least you have a line of sight, but front flips are blind leaps of faith where you hope you land on your feet). the 4th time i landed on my feet but fell backwards and the same went for the 5th try. but lo and behold, on the 6th try i stuck the landing!

immediately after, i nailed it three more times to prove to myself i could do it (after all, anybody can get lucky once, so one of the tenets of parkour is you have to do it successfully three times in a row), so progress was made today...

sadly, my night was cut short when i split my pants about 3/4 the way down. let's just say it got breezy downstairs in a hurry. i would have stayed regardless, but since there were a few girls in the house, i didn't want to make it seem like i was showing off. you know... XD

Monday, December 7, 2009

las vegas - day 2

saturday morning we swooped up our boys at THEhotel and headed downtown for brunch at aloha specialties at the california hotel. back in the day a lot of my NSU (nikkei student union) friends stayed at the cal for their annual basketball tournament, so the restaurant is heavily populated w/asians.

the marathoners were there for their carb overload, but i opted for the local plate consisting of teriyaki beef, BBQ chicken & spam musubi. but my favorite combo is the one jerico rolled the dice on here. i mean, who said korean chicken, mahi mahi and a hot dog don't go together, right?

we stayed a bit to gamble ($3 blackjack tables on a saturday!), but got spanked by the dragonslayer and trudged back to the car to return to mandalay bay. after putting down a bet for a parlay at the sports book, decided to take the plunge and play no limit texas hold em at a table for the first time in my life (i've played w/friends, but never in a casino). and what happens? hit quad jacks for a bonus payout (who knew?) on top of my winning hand, so my first experience was a smashing success. i would have raked in a higher payout, but a girl earlier that day hit a four of a kind as well. but i guess complaining about free money is akin to complaining that i'm always healthy, so i will stay mute on this one...

dinner was a carousel, as some people went to b&b (batali's restaurant at the venetian, which i've already been to and was disappointed in comparison w/osteria mozza in los angeles) and some went to alex at the wynn, which required a certain attire i wasn't equipped with. that resto is so gangsta ($125 per entree minimum) they actually give you a gift after your meal. since neither of us are taking evian showers, we drove around and hit up a hole in the wall sushi joint off the strip. i've had fresher fish in a filet-o-fish at the mickey d's, but the place was good for high comedy.

check out the roll between 'ichiban' and 'johnny roll' on the menu, which i'm guessing is sponsored by shaquille o'neal (kobe, how's my @$$ taste?)...

we ended up returning to the homestead, as jerico & keith had to wake up at 5am for the 6am marathon. one last look at an important piece of equipment for the race...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

las vegas - rock & roll marathon

stole away to vegas this weekend, as a few of my UCLA brethren were in town to run the marathon (well i should say only keith, as the rest opted for the 1/2 marathon). was planning to drive out there early friday morning, but because my buddy jerico (frosh roommate!) forgot to bring the keys to his parents' condo, i opted to take off on thursday night, in order to grab the keys from his parents in west covina. after a shady transaction in a closed el pollo loco parking lot, i ventured out, keys in hand.

pulled up to the palms casino at 2:30am, where we proceeded to get spanked in pai gow for the next few hours. we left at 5:30am to head back to the condo, only to realize we didn't have a gate clicker to get in. of course, i could have easily cleared the height given my parkour background, but fortunately for them, somebody was returning home, so we snuck in behind them.

hit the hay at 6:30am, woke up at 10am and hit up this breakfast joint called the egg & i, which was surprisingly good. should anybody find themselves feenin for a banana nut muffin, their homemade ones are the bee's knees. and their sicilian skillet ain't half bad either...

we then headed to mandalay bay to pick up registration stuff for the race. i was able to nab a swag bag by posing as a runner, so now i have multiple samples of energy gels called gu than i know what to do with. the race expo was ginormous, and a reported 30,000 peeps would run either the half marathon or full marathon come sunday morning. i even ran into victor jih, 1/2 of the brother-sister duo that won 'the amazing race 15.'

charlie palmer's aureole restaurant is also located at mandalay bay, so i was able to sneak in some pics of their famed 4-story wine tower, which wine angel stewards ascend to retrieve your bottles. damn impressive if you ask me, but needless to say we didn't dine here...

instead, we went for a carb overload at capo's, an old-school, speakeasy italian restaurant. when you enter the front door, you descend upon a four-walled enclosed space, where they ask you to 'ring da bell.' then out of nowhere, the maitre d' slides open this small panel to instigate conversation.

we didn't have reservations, but got seated within 20 minutes, which was just enough time to appreciate the huge portrait of al capone hanging on the wall with 'goodfellas' playing in the background. ordered up the chicago style supreme pizza and some pesto pasta, both of which were the bomb shiz.

after dinner, we met up with some buddies who were staying at THEhotel at mandalay bay, which is a stunning boutique hotel right on the strip. everything from the registration desk to the hallway leading up to it was gorgeously appointed, as shown below. all i can say is, the next time i fall into some cash, i'm staying here next...

after a touch of gambling, we decided to head back to our condo for our own poker game. we ended up playing three tournaments - one of which i won - so it was a good night...

Monday, November 30, 2009

sights - tilden park botanic garden

after treating the parents to chez panisse, we stopped by the botanic gardens at tilden park, way up in the hills of berkeley. it's a beautiful and tranquil 10-acre garden which houses many of the state's endangered plants, trees, shrubs & flowers.

here's a look at some prickly pear along with a closeup of a strand of an oak plant:

and here's a neat look at two separate artists finding inspiration in the same spot (pay particular attention to the painting of the woman in the turquoise shirt):

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

eats - chez panisse

finally had the pleasure of dining at the birthplace of california cuisine - chez panisse in berkeley. the main restaurant opened its doors in 1971 by founder alice waters, and is distinctively known for their fixed menu of what is most seasonal and fresh that particular day. the more affordable upstairs café was born in 1980 and is a nice alternative to the set menu.

since it was my parents' wedding anniversary last week, what better way to celebrate than with a great meal? here's a neat look at the downstairs kitchen, which was busy prepping for dinner service this evening. lunch is located upstairs, distinguished by an open kitchen along one side of the room.

here's today's menu and a quick recap of all the dishes at our table, which of course, i tried:

six hog island sweetwater oysters w/mignionette - tasting right out of the sea, citrus & buttery goodness down the chute.

cannard farm rocket w/roasted sunchokes, chervil & bottarga di muggine - simply prepared, i only wish there were more sunchokes!

hand-stretched mozzarella w/grilled jimmy nardello peppers, rapini & iowa prosciutto - balanced quite nice w/the sweetness of the fresh cheese and the acidity of the peppers

BN ranch heritage turkey cooked two ways w/pancetta, polenta & brussels sprouts - both white and dark meat here, balanced texturally by crisp nettle, creamy polenta & firm brussels sprouts.

grilled local opah w/saffron, cauliflower, currants, pine nuts, marjoram & toasted bread crumbs - this savory dish was highlighted by the fish being cooked to precision

penne rigate pasta w/pasture raised veal ragu & parmesan - wholesome goodness, it went even better w/some crushed hot peppers

pizza w/tomato sauce, eggplant & mint - so delicious one forgot that there was a lack of meat on this bad boy...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

tic tac to cat

captured from today's training session at UCLA...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

eats - gjelina

treated my cousin for her birthday at gjelina on abbot kinney in venice, but midway thru the meal i felt as though i was the one being treated. the dinner was nothing short of amazing, and to think we barely touched meat! the room radiates a warm and casual vibe, as the stone wall carvings and the upscale alpine lodge feel bring a sophistication to the proceedings. chef and co-owner travis lett's food most resembles ATL supergroup outkast, since everything was so fresh and so clean...

a quick rundown of the dishes we inhaled i mean consumed:

grilled asparagus w/frisse, fried farm egg, parmesan & bacon vinaigrette - the first bite into the asparagus resembled breaking the casing on a perfectly cooked hot dog. snap! and so good. also, i don't eat fried egg, so you can only imagine how tasty it must have been...

wood roasted sunchokes w/salsa verde
- kind of a cross between a potato and ginger root, these was earthy, seasoned spot on and we couldn't stop eating.

charred brussels sprouts w/dates, vinegar & bacon
- brussels sprouts are another item i don't care for, yet these were delectable delights counterbalanced perfectly with the dates and disappeared within minutes.

pumpkin & mascarpone ravioli w/chanterelle, sage, brown butter & parmesan
- perfect blend of sweet and sour, these flat rectangular ravioli were a pillowy treat. a nice rustic touch especially with halloween just behind us.

mushroom, goat cheese & truffle oil pizza
- the crust is usually the deciding factor when it comes to pizza, and this did not disappoint. super thin, yet just strong enough to withstand eating each slice by hand.

butterscotch pot de crème w/salted caramel & crème fraiche
- bar none, this was one of the best desserts i have EVER had. i can't speak for the budino at pizzeria mozza (i've never been), but something would have to be earth shattering to top this. silky smooth texture + salted caramel = heaven.

1429 abbot kinney blvd.
venice, CA 90291

Sunday, November 1, 2009

eats - jin patisserie 2.0

here's what i like to call a little slice(s) of heaven. had the fortunate chance to stop by the lovely jin patisserie on abbot kinney for some afternoon tea, and somehow found these delectable hand-crafted pastries forced upon me. the horror! XD

clockwise from the top:

* lavender gateaux - lavender butter cream layered with dark chocolate ganache on lavender sponge
* mysterious - passion fruit with hazelnut cream filled with spiced diced pineapple
* inspiration - soft caramel with bitter-sweet chocolate with a touch of sea salt (my personal fave)

Friday, October 23, 2009

relationship blues

so i had been dating this girl for the past 4 months, which we agreed to end this past tuesday at diddy riese in westwood of all places. it was quite the amicable parting, as the writing was on the wall for the better part of the last month, which helped soften the blow. but it sure didn't make my cookie taste any better...

anyhoot, rather than sit around and mope about it, i figure the best thing i can do is make light of the situation (what i do best) and in the process, look back and realize just how foolish and naive i was, haha. remember, this is for your entertainment, not mine, so i'm being the bigger man here.

a quick recap of the particulars: me - a dashing, talented and quick-witted chap with a litany of useful (and useless) skills - please refrain from laughter, thanks - who resides on the westside. her - an attractive nurse and current grad student of the same nationality who resides in the san fernando valley. she was on summer break for the first three months, but started up school (and a vigorous work schedule) in late september, curiously the exact time things started going south.

here are a few signs (painful in remembrance, believe me) that things aren't going your way:

* when she spends more time looking at her phone than at you.

* when she doesn't initiate spending time with you. i've been fortunate enough in the past to not always have to ask, so i was going paranoid wondering if she even wanted to. she never said no, but a little indication would have been great. lesson learned.

* during a night of karaoke, i saw that her roommate texted her to see how the night was going. "great" or "it doesn't matter what we're doing, i just like hanging out w/brian" or "call the ambulance because i consumed too many sake bombs" all would have been perfectly acceptable answers. her response? "it's karaoke." ouch.

* after three months of dating, i told her that i liked her and enjoyed spending time with her. when i asked how she thought things were going, she dropped this gem: "i haven't really thought about it." OMG talk about having your heart ripped out, wow. i mean, that's something you say when your dad asks you what you want for lunch, NOT after spending time exclusively with someone for three months. needless to say, i was dumbfounded at the response and decided to soldier on for the sake of the rest of the evening. at this point, it was pretty clear i was #346 on her hierarchy. maybe even #347...

* when you cook dinner, and have to extract her from a textbook to tell her that the food is ready. i thought i was eating by myself it was so lonely. but hey, at least she offered to do the dishes, right? uh no. i basically prepped, cooked, cleaned and amused myself for three hours during this excruciating evening. i seriously think i had a better time getting my wisdom teeth removed. at least then i was numb from the pain... XD

* when you lightly caress her arm in bed and she replies by saying "wow, you must really be bored." um, yeah. [sniff, sniff]

* for her birthday, i decided to - ill-advised, obviously - make her a scrapbook of memories that only took me six weeks to complete. let's just say that i got a better response from the girl at paper source (where i picked up some paper and trinkets to put it together) than i did from the birthday girl. she was literally tearing up at the cash register she thought it was so thoughtful. again, this was A TOTAL STRANGER.

ok, so now that i'm feeling horrible about myself, i'm starting to choke up, sheesh. looking back, it's so difficult to remain objective when you're in the throes of a relationship, as the affairs of the heart can make one look really dumb. i mean, i consider myself a pretty perceptive fellow but even i couldn't think clearly and coherently about how i was being treated. i mean, what kind of idiot was i to think this behavior was acceptable? and to me? in any case, onwards and upwards as they say! i deserve better, damn it.

SF conservatory of music - cover boy

that's right peeps. if you had to guess which photogenic, musically-inclined member of the lhee family would make cover on the san francisco conservatory of music's annual program, one might guess my violin-wielding sister, natch.

guess again bitches! whoo hoo! and i'm bringing the rice bowl back in 2009!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

hiking - rustic canyon loop

this morning i decided to venture over to will rogers state historic park to hike the rustic canyon loop, which covers about 6 miles total. first thing to be aware of is, parking is a whopping $12 (!?!) to enter the park, so the ranger was kind enough to direct me to a spot a few hundred yards away where one can park for free. i hoofed it to will's old house, where the trail to inspiration point begins. it's a scant 0.9 miles up, so i wasn't too impressed yet with the climb or the view.

but there's a turnoff to the backbone trail leading into topanga state park, and that's where the fun began. about a 1/2 mile up, there's a neat wooden bridge that crosses over chicken ridge, until you hit an unmarked turnoff to head down rustic canyon. from there, it's a 1/2 mile downhill boulder-hopping until reaching a dilapidated cabin that rogers and friends used to kick it at.

from here it gets dicey. it's another 2 miles of hugging the streambed downstream to get back to the polo grounds of the park, but the trail kind of disappears and who knows where i was headed. luckily, i heard some voices nearby, so i asked for help and they invited me to come along. it turns out that they were a small group of expedition trekkers (, so instead of taking the easy way back to the park, they took me on a 2 mile detour of unsanctioned trails that only they knew, so we took turns running uphill and jumping over creeks in the wild country. let's just say that if i didn't run into them, i still might be there now.

the group was very friendly, and it turns out that some participated in the eco challenge (from mark burnett, before 'survivor'), some do triathlons, some do kayaking expeditions, etc., so it was a great mix of people that just love the outdoors. i'm definitely going to hit up their site and see if there are any upcoming events that i can join...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

creative arts emmys - nokia theatre

this is a long time coming, but last week i had the pleasure of attending the creative arts emmy award ceremony, courtesy of my good friend natasha at daily variety. for those who are unfamiliar, the emmys used to take place over one night, but a lot of the categories got shoved to the side in favor of the marquee ones (best actor, best supporting actress, etc.), so they broke it up into two segments a few years ago to even things out.

the ceremony took place at the nokia theatre at LA live, the bustling new complex located next to the staples center which houses eateries, entertainment (lucky strike lanes) and more. it was quite the madhouse what with all the celebs (i was scrunched up next to donald faison of 'clueless' and 'scrubs fame) and limos, but once i arrived they quickly stepped aside so natasha and i could make our way to the front door.

the award show got a bit tedious towards the end (i had to leave three hours in to head down to irvine), but highlights included tina fey and watching seth mcfarlane do voices for peter griffin, stewie and brian on stage...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

happy father's day

don't mean to get all sentimental on ya, but today's a day to celebrate my dad, who i am most proud of. everybody has a story to tell about their father, but mine was born and raised in korea with his brothers, immigrated to the US without knowing a lick of english, and made something of himself and his family in the good ol' bay area. and since education was first and foremost in my parents' eyes, they busted their tail to send my sister and i to the best schools (stuart hall for boys - a private, catholic grammar school in the pacific heights, st. ignatius college prep - a private, catholic high school in the sunset) money could buy despite our middle class upbringing. and though he was extremely strict (couldn't watch tv, forced me to ration food at a young age, coughed up half my paycheck at my job, and he always had the belt or stick at the ready), i fell in line and adopted the same strong morals that he so vigorously instilled. he taught me to never blame anybody else or to use excuses for one's own shortcomings, all things i have ingrained as part of my makeup today. for that, i am most grateful and appreciative of my dad. happy father's day indeed.