I’ve unhorked my blog archives, after more than a YEAR. Not that I’ve posted since 2008. Worst blogger, ever.
In a fit of pique, upgraded to Movable Type 5, and I don’t know if anything works anymore. If you wouldn’t mind dipping your toes into the comment stream?
Am feeling quite the drama queen.
Also: all the commenting authentication options (facebook, google, livejournal) — cool, or creepy?
Things will be bubbling up under this entry for a bit as I start moving some stuff by hand from over at Vox. This is harder than I thought it would be!
No, I will not go to your place if you have a limo sent over.
Yes, I love you too.
Farmers market strawberry cheesecake cupcakes from Trophy, shortly before they were bought (& promptly wilted in Sunday’s 90-degree heat). They did a good job evoking their namesake, melty or not, especially with the little graham cracker crust surprise at the bottom of the paper cup! Delicious, as to be expected, though I still do miss the incredible blueberry pie ‘cakes with which the Bravern store was opened.
And on the hidden gems front: peanut mochi, from Dim Sum King in the ID. Can’t vouch for anything else they serve, as I was in & out, but the mochi just kills.
Why is it that every time I turn around, Justin Bieber is in the news again?
Sometimes it seems like this blog should be subtitled “Eden eats it so you don’t have to,” doesn’t it? Well, a friend brought back a bounty of chocolates from Korea, and…! Well, here we go again.
What can I say? It’s a calling.
Roasted Laver (김, pictured) - which is salted & oiled seaweed, yummy with rice (and which you may know as nori). In chocolate, well — color me surprised? This actually managed to be both accurate and appealing, defying expectations. First taste was very much like chocolate with sea salt, followed by a hit of sea-flavored grassiness. This sounds totally revolting, but the effect is more like a rich green or oolong tea. Disclaimer: I love love love grassy teas, so your mileage may vary.
Kimchi - totally did not succeed in evoking the idea of kimchi. Which — you know what? — thank goodness. Because yuck. I still can’t imagine how that would work. This was more like your average chile-spiked chocolate, but significantly spicier than any I’ve had. There was also a very, very faint aftertaste of sourness, which I guess was the attempt at simulation. Not offensive, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to like it, probably because I couldn’t stop imagining how awful an accurately kimchi-flavored chocolate would be.
Makgeolli (막걸리) - a rustic, cloudy rice wine (also called nongju) that’s come into vogue in Korea lately. You can find the real thing in Korean markets in large white plastic bottles. I think it tastes like something halfway between sake and rice vinegar. This? Tasted exactly like the real thing, which puts it firmly in the “interesting” camp. Incidentally total aside: the best meal I had while in Seoul was at a vegetarian restaurant featuring bibimbap made with dozens varieties of mountain greens and nongju. SO GOOD. I didn’t even know there were Korean vegetarians.
Roasted Sweet Potato - another spot-on recreation. Of the yellow kind, not the orangey stuff sometimes referred to as yams. And? I liked this.
There were more flavors, but they were decidedly more familiar (and honestly, I was fairly sweeted out by this point). So four was it, this time. On the whole, a mostly yummy experience. Dodged another bullet!
From when this was Google’s homepage last November. You can’t blame a girl for doing what comes naturally.
Riddle me this: If Beauty and the Beast is set in France, why is Lumière the only one with an OUTRRRRAGEOUS FRENCH ACCENT?
#1 Bake banana bread.*
#2 Let cool.
#6 Drizzle with honey.
* I like this recipe from Food Network - simple & delicious.
My routine when visiting Richmond, British Columbia always involves making the rounds looking for interesting KitKat flavors. I’ve always been able to find something new, but maybe it’s a dry spell in Japan, or maybe the fact that Japanese KitKats have started popping up at Uwajimaya — I ended up being a sad panda today.
I found these, though!
Matcha green tea Aero! I’d gone from really loving Aero bars from my first taste — orange, in England in 1995 — to not liking them much at all after the huge disappointment of sticky toffee. Not finding any KitKats made me v. receptive to giving Aero another chance, and well — I’ll try just about anything flavored with green tea. So that helped with the wooing.
The bag contains eighteen individually-wrapped mini bars, each about an inch long. They’re pretty sweet; not nearly as sweet as the sticky toffee, thank goodness, but almost on the other side of where I like it. The small size definitely keeps it livable, though! The matcha flavor is very, very, subtle, manifesting more as a feeling of mellowness rather than anything explicitly leafy — seriously, blink & you’ll miss it — but enough to distinguish it from plain chocolate Aero.
I’ve really never been quite sure what effect the bubbles were supposed to have, but I do have to admit I’m a fan of the little melty cave-ins that play along my tongue as they pass over. Mmmm!
Okay, I admit it. I’m back on Team Aero.
As for KitKats, despite the expedition’s failure, I do have quite a backlog of flavors. I don’t want to bore you, though. Are you interested in reports?
Remember that scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast surprises Belle with a gift of… well, an entire library? I was seventeen when that movie was released, but I already knew it was the most romantic thing I could ever think of. I don’t even know when it was I first imagined having a library of my very own, but I must have been very, very young.
About a year ago, I bought five IKEA bookshelves, with extensions, to install in the den — which was pretty much the first thing I did after acquiring said den. At the time, I think we talked about sharing pictures of our respective libraries. Problem was, I barely had any books at the time. I’d bought into a promise of a library rather than having one already.
After a year of opening long-sealed boxes and getting a shipment of a piano and all of my juvenilia from my parents (a story in itself), as well as buying a whole bunch of used books (have you noticed how many different Half Price Books mayorships I have on foursquare?), my dream’s looking a lot more fleshed out. So in the interests of starting a meme, here we go:
That’s the highest resolution I was able to get into one picture. Hopefully some of the titles are readable.
There are a lot of childhood / teen relics here, so this is slightly embarrassing. I already made sure anything involving, say, Francine Pascal or Ann M. Martin were culled before the package was even sent, but there’s still at least an entire shelf of embarrassing science fiction / fantasy I haven’t weeded out yet (hint: they tend to be grouped together). Also at least five shelves of actual children’s books that I just can’t get rid of. At least not yet!
So… now that that’s there for everyone to see, what’s on your bookshelf? I want to see!
As requested, four from the backlog:
Kinako Big Kat (June 2009)
Kinako is a soybean flour that I’ve mostly encountered as a coating for mochi. It’s got a nutty, slightly salty flavor that’s really quite appealing, though usually you’ll want to have a nice cup of tea on hand to wash it down. This bar was perfectly evocative of that, and the combination of kinako with the milk chocolate coating made for an experience that was not too sweet (a real danger with these larger-sized KitKats) and really delicious.
This easily shot up to my all-time top five list. In fact, just writing about it is making me drool. Not really. Well, maybe a bit.
Banana Big Kat (July 2010)
This, on the other hand, was like a sugar bomb in my mouth. I don’t know if it was the coating or the cream filling, but this was sweet to the point of precipitating sugar crystals. The bright side? You know that super-fake banana flavor you get sometimes in candies? This was somewhat bit better than that — and about a billion times better than these, which were just dreadful! About one of these per year might be the right frequency.
Jasmine Tea KitKats (June 2009)
I love, love, love jasmine tea, and I love green tea KitKats! So when I heard that pastilla had gotten these, I was so insanely jealous that I essentially bribed a coworker into bring some back with him from Japan — if he could find them. Which, thank goodness, he did! (Along with the kinako, which makes him my favorite. Ever.)
These are definitely on the sweet side too, and the milk chocolate coating is definitely the dominant element here. So it’s not surprising that the floral notes come on almost as an overtone, a descant over the chorus of the normal KitKat flavors. They’re definitely there, though, and I thought quite appealing. I know a lot of people seem to think this one’s a miss, but you won’t be able to convince me of it!
Bitter Almond KitKats (August 2010)
I guess these are in right now, because you can find them everywhere. The almond flavor is in the fililng, and to me tastes of somewhere firmly between “sour” and “dead.” Just not appealing at all! I’ve had people ask me whether these taste like cyanide. Really? Are you expecting an “in the know” answer there?
There’s a lot more where these came from. Please do yell if these start to get tiresome!
I got all three of these flavors back in December of 2009, thanks to my friend Nic, who brought them back from Canada. From top to bottom:
Frankly, I ate these pretty much instantly — probably due to pleasant memories of the Kinako Big Kat from earlier in the year. Sadly, my memory is not so distinct on this one, other than:
- The kinako flavor was still noticeable, though less prominent than in the big kat;
- Definite red bean overtones, similar to the green tea - adzuki - shave ice flavor from way back, but more subtle than the oshiruko.
- Like the oshiruko KitKats, there were apparently little mochi puffs inside, but I don’t think I ever even noticed.
I think I liked it. It certainly would help my romantic view of my relationship with kinako if I did. Wish I could remember!
I admit that I totally forgot about these, to the point where looking in my pantry for backlog ideas I found the box, unopened. So you get a fresh impression! Ume is Japanese plum, very sour, and there is definite acid in this candy version. That hits the tongue first, followed by an expansive sweet mellowing as the rest of the bar spreads through the mouth, followed by a return of the tartness as a lingering aftertaste. The changing aspect is nice — previous flavors toying with sourness seemed fairly one-note and cloying. Lemon creme comes quickly to mind.
I’ve never actually had ume-flavored soda, but I can imagine it’s probably not too far off the mark. If anything, the KitKat doesn’t taste nearly as artificial as most Asian soft drinks I’ve had. Verdict? Surprisingly yummy, though probably not an instant classic.
Okay, I found some of this too, but it was one remaining bar in an opened, foil inner package. Super-stale after nine months? Given that my from-memory review would probably be the phrase “kinda weird,” in the interests of painting an accurate picture, I took the bullet. So…
If I don’t post tomorrow, please send the cavalry ~ and tell them I did it for love.
Yes, of course I did a sniff test first. Only thing is, when your recollection ends at “kinda weird,” it’s hard to judge whether the (admittedly strange) fragrance was due to spoilage or not. So into my mouth it went. And?
Well, it’s… kinda weird, after all. And I refuse to make it a matter of its vegetable-juiciness. I’m pretty sure the drink it’s modeled on is nothing like V8 — the box shows carrots and apples, which I’ve definitely had in juice form, and which I think wouldn’t make such a bad base flavor for candy. In fact, the first taste was pretty pleasant. But! That artificial feeling I mentioned as a characteristic of Asian soft drinks? It’s here, in spades, as an unsettling, astringent aftertaste. Astringent’s probably not the right word. Is there an opposite of umami?
Of course, that might just be nine months in the pantry talking.
See how much I love you?
I totally bought this to be my next sketchbook, because the form factor was perfect! Nothing to do then, but to produce some ill-advised Mass Effect fan art, fifteen minutes’ worth. In the interests of tracking my growth, though, here it is.
How embarrassing! Looks like it’s time to re-learn some basic anatomy. Sigh. It’s a journey, right?
Incidentally, and to continue the hyperbole: Kentucky Bourbon ice cream at my cafeteria at work was a pleasant & totally delicious surprise.
A journey from bitter to sweet, this time.
Pretty much exactly what it says it is — darker & more distinct than the easier-to-find dark chocolate flavor, with a bittersweetness reminiscent of 70% cacao bars. Liked it v. much, but felt it was something to be enjoyed at a measured pace, by a fireside, a glass of port nearby. But something tells me you’re not going to do that.
Raspberry & Passionfruit KitKats
These came in two different boxes, brown and pink, with a design that makes me think of Valentine’s Day (similar to last year’s lemon variety). Like most Japanese KitKats, the box has a place for you to write little To: and From: labels, but let’s face it, unless you’re dating me, KitKats are not a very good Valentine’s Day gift. So! Let’s talk flavor.
The bars themselves are coated in dark chocolate (sweeter than the semisweet, but still fairly intense). I’m really not a fan of passionfruit, and these KitKats didn’t change my mind. The bitterness of the chocolate and the astringency of the passionfruit combined in a really unappealing way for me — almost exactly like cheap, dark chocolate cherry cordials, especially the unpleasant oozy pink stuff inside. Yuck!
On the other hand:
Similar concept, but so much better! Milk chocolate and a lack of icky passionfruit result in a much more balanced, sweet flavor. The box seems to indicate that this is supposed to taste like raspberry cheesecake, but I didn’t really get that — certainly not to the extent of the blueberry and strawberry cheesecake KitKats from last year (to be reviewed, maybe?). I certainly didn’t miss it, though.
Verdict? Would eat again. And possibly again after that.
There you go — #3. How long can I string together KitKat entries? Any guesses?
Day 2: Another day, another try. Continuing yesterday’s Mass Effect theme, I decided to insert Shepard into a situation where she might have woken up to a firefight — mostly because I wanted to try and not use bulky armor as a crutch this time.
This is about a half-hour’s worth of pencils:
Definitely not perfect. I think in my imagination she was a little more buff than this, or maybe I drew her head bigger than I should have. Her pose is a little awkward, but at least it’s more adventurous than yesterday’s straight-on concept. The hands and lower body are totally undefined and the total effect is really amateurish, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised.
Normally, this is where I’d leave well enough alone, but we’re in a learning experiment here, so why not risk losing it all?
Here come the inks:
I think Shepard’s face, in particular, lost a lot in the process. Or at least morphed into something else entirely — who knows? — maybe it’s more appropriate for the subject matter. I’m pretty sure I overcompensated in trying to dial back the delicate features of the pencil sketch.
Overall, I’m not really happy with how this turned out, but I’m glad to have tried it. One of my problems in the past has always been bringing a piece of art to completion, so hopefully all this practice and acting outside my normally risk-averse instincts will pay off.
Anyway, I doubt this is as interesting for you as it is for me, but I think putting this stuff up, warts and all, has pushed me to grow a little more than I otherwise might have. And last time some of you said that you were feeling inspired to pick up your pencils too. I do hope that happened, and that, maybe, you’ll share, too!
Day 3: Moving away from Commander Shepard this time:
Idea this time was stylize, stylize, stylize. Started with the concept of ancient Egyptian art, but maybe depicting a Starbucks or something. From that I dialed back a bit, kept the pose and the coffee shop but went back to more of a magazine glossy cartoon vibe.
Tried to go outside my comfort zone a bit more, playing with darker skin & full-page colors. I started out super-stylized which is why her forearm is too long, which I totally regret now, and her outfit is unfortunately influenced by people sharing links to the Cami Secret parody video (nsfw!!) all day. But fauxhawks & studs — well, I love them, and I’ve never drawn either before.
Aside from her arm, I kind of like it! Probably wouldn’t choose these markers again for skin, since they don’t handle overdrawing very well and her face looks a bit scarred because of it. And I so wish I’d scanned in the pencil version this time to compare. Cutting corners!
If you have any ideas for upcoming attempts, I’m taking suggestions!
Day 4: Lacking inspiration, put pen to paper and follow the line. Kōjiki.
An actual idea bouncing around in my head for the next one. Hopefully it won’t feel as much like a cop-out.
Day 5: Yellow, a yellow flame.
I had a concept in mind for this but it didn’t really come out as I’d intended. Went with all pencils this time, shadow as a main focus. Key learning: it’s much easier to ruin fine facial features irrevocably with a 2B pencil than it is with a 4H, so handle with care! Sadly, one of my silent rules so far has been “no eraser,” so — live by the sword, die by the sword.
Bonus points if you recognize the subject.
Edit: the jacket she has on is his. Draped around her shoulders, empty arms. I need some more time studying the ebb & flow of fabric.
I’ve gotten feedback that this project has resonated with some people, and really, nothing would please me more than to share the experience with others! To that end, I’ve set up a Thirty Pages group blog — if you’d like an account to post your own pages, please drop me a line and I can set one up for you (my email address is on the top-right of this page).
Okay, UPS guy, here’s the deal: I’ll give you a kiss if you promise not to make me wait too much longer. Love, Eden.
As if there should have been any doubt. At all.
To my UPS driver: three hours later doesn’t get you a kiss, mister — but I’ll still admit I squealed a little when I heard your footsteps outside.
This seems like a fine time to share one of my favorite webcomics, with an appropriate strip: Kate Beaton’s Hark, a vagrant!
This is about when I throw up my hands, realize I’m not an artist, and go back to writing about KitKats, you know?
On the other hand, lettering is fun and I’m obviously out of practice. Be warned, you may be seeing twenty-four days straight of nothing but “Mrs. Edward Fairfax Rochester” over and over again.
Link-dumping in this entry, because for once I feel like I’m actually posting too much:
- Read the late anime director Satoshi Kon’s moving final words at Makiko Itoh: Not a Nameless Cat.
- Haunting color film footage from 1922 at Kodak: A Thousand Words.
- The Prokudin-Gorskii collection, which I wrote about in 2004, seems to be making the rounds again thanks to boston.com’s always-interesting The Big Picture.