Tissue box auntie

Tissue box auntie
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So I’m trying to pick out a few more boxes of Kleenex facial tissues. Chronic bulk shopper that I am, even with 7 packets of coffee, 6 body shampoo refill packs, 4 jumbo packs of 2 regular packs of 10 bathroom rolls (’cause 80 rolls is just how I roll lol) and 2 packs of 4 tissue boxes already in my cart, I’m still not done. Need to snag 2 more 4-packs. At least.

You’d think I’m running a freakin’ hotel. That’s right, running a household with 3 kids is like running a hotel. I don’t do last minute. I always buy in bulk and stock up. Because heaven forbid, if the Apocalypse should hit tomorrow and we run out of toilet rolls or peanut butter or batteries or something. So I kinda always wanna be prepared lol.

Back to my story. It’s a very busy day at the store, the Kleenex aisle is a moving river of women and my shopping cart is parked nearby. When I happen to glance over at it, I notice a well-dressed “auntie” in her 40’s peering left and right at the contents of my loaded cart.

So I’m like ??

Tissue box auntie

She: Ah, where (did) you get this?

Me: Over there. (pointing)

She goes over and is back in front of me in seconds.

She: Where? Where? (It’s) not there. Where (did) you find this?

Me: Over there. (swallowing hard and pointing again to the same shelf)

She disappears and reappears several more times, looking more frantic each time. I’m starting to think that she wants me to take her by the hand, lead her to the exact spot and place said tissue boxes into her arms.

Not happening!

Me: Well, it’s there somewhere or maybe they’ve run out.

Okay, “run out” is probably a bad choice of words. She might think I’m asking her to run out of the store (which might not be such a bad idea after all, come to think of it lol!). I’m guilty of flinging phrasal verbs around only to realize, wait a minute, I should probably grade my language, just in case.

Me: Err, maybe they’re out of stock.

She: I want (the) same one like this.

What?!?

Tissue box auntie

She wants the same box design that I have? *sweats* I’m like, well, if you can’t find the same exact design, what’s the big deal? Nothing special about these boxes – same price, same size – and they’re just tissues which you use once and throw away. Just pick something else and move on with life. Gah!

Guess what? She reappears, this time waving her cellphone. I’m like, NOW WHAT?

She: I take photo, okay? (pointing to my tissue pack)

Lololol this woman is something else. But I’m a nice person.

Me: Sure. (holding up the pack for her)

Then she’s gone, whew! For good, I hope. But no, she’s back and asking if she can borrow my tissue pack so she can go show it to the staff. What?! She can’t be serious! My parking ticket is expiring soon and I ain’t paying for another hour of parking just to entertain her needless pursuit.

Me: Look, lady, I don’t have time for this. I can’t be standing here all day. I have to go.

I start pushing my cart and walking away. You know, it’d be nice if people would realize when they’re stretching the limits on other people’s time. And like I always say, throwing in a thank-you and/or sorry is not only the polite thing to do but it’d be really nice. Just sayin’.

Apparently you CAN win

Apparently you CAN win
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Just when it seems you simply can’t win, apparently you can. As the story goes, I was hankering after an elusive meal of fried rice which the Food Gods were determined I shouldn’t have and I was left standing there wondering what to eat at the end of yet another boring grocery run.

That fried rice yo, I must have it now!

But even before I could utter the words “fried rice!”, my feet had shifted into gear and were headed in the direction of… yes, that same cafe where I was ignored and subsequently walked out of. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have gone back there but what can I do? I really dig their cave-like coolness and simple food.

So I walked in and parked myself at a table right underneath the air-conditioner going full blast. Tis another cool day of 80+F outside. Aah, bliss! In less than 2 nanoseconds, the server was standing beside me, the same one who’d ignored me the last time.

As I settled into my seat, he patiently waited to take my order, refusing to blink or budge. I’m even more convinced now that he had indeed been the server who’d seen me get up and leave the last time and probably, possibly didn’t want to lose me again. I could be wrong, of course. He could just be plain conscientious about his job lol.

It took a while but aaah, here’s my fried rice at last! This sure looks a lot better than 4 pieces of playdoh. A fried rice hill on a banana leaf island with crashing waves of shrimp fritters. There’s definitely a tropical feel to this. Good job!

Apparently you can win

Its flavor is way different from my homecooked winter version, not that that’s necessarily bad. Of course, no other fried rice can beat mine bwahaha, says the picky eater, but this does the job. I even found hidden treasure on the island aka 3 large shrimps embedded in that hill.

Apparently you can win

It doesn’t look like a big serving but believe me, it is. I ate the entire portion aka I unashamedly rolled out the door like a carb ball lol. Thank you, Food Gods, I finally got what I wanted. Hmm, the satisfaction of a plate of fried rice washed down with a long glass of iced coffee and a good book! Burp!

You just can’t win

You just can't win
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Do you ever get the feeling that some days, you just can’t win with the Food Gods? I swear this is what happened to me on the day I was walking around seeing mirages of fried rice with an omelet on top. This is weird. What’s goin’ on?

Yeah, I know. It’s so out of character for me to eat restaurant fried rice when it’s something I can always cook at home. Maybe it was because the weather had been kinda cool that day (if you can even call 80F cool *slaps forehead*) and I was reminded of the winter version I used to make and eat straight out of a big common bowl.

Now if I could just step into a time machine and go back to those grey days of hugging my bowl at the kitchen table and savoring every spoonful of that piping hot fried rice. And it’s a gorgeous 40 degrees out! Yeah, that must be it. That explains the mirages.

And here were my feet beginning to take me to that nearby cafe where I often go to relax and read a book. I seated myself and waited for someone to take my order. Ten minutes passed, then 15. The place wasn’t that busy, it was still early and I swear that at least one of the servers had seen me. Was I being ignored?

I looked around and all the servers seemed to have disappeared. Okay, if I ain’t gettin’ served, then I’m outta here! So I got up and walked out. No big deal. This is not new. It’s been done before. Walking out, I mean.

But dang it, I got to have that fried rice now! I wandered a few doors down to another restaurant whose miles-long menu I’ve browsed before but found nothing that tempted me. I figured I’d give their menu another look. Flipping page. Scanning page. Aha, fried rice!

I stepped inside and was pleased their air-conditioning was on full blast. Woohoo! Maybe this place ain’t half bad, eh? That was me trying to convince myself that I was making the right choice. They have a long list under Fried Rice too. Super hungry, I picked the one with the pork chop and omelet.

Now what could possibly go wrong with that, right? Wrong! Look at this. This was what they served me.

You just can't win

Ouch, what’s this? This can’t be my order. I don’t see any fried rice!! WHERE’S MY FRIED RICE???? I signaled the server over. “I ordered fried rice. This is not fried rice.” Silence. The standard 2-minute processing time it takes to mentally translate English to Mandarin. She disappeared and came back with the menu. Because sometimes it’s easier to just point than articulate.

Another 2 minutes of silence later, I finally figured out that the item I ordered said ‘rice’, not ‘fried rice’ but it was listed under the title page ‘Fried Rice’. If that even makes any sense at all!?!?! Obviously not to me. Because if I’d been the person creating the menu, this would never have happened. The horror and disappointment!

I stared at my plate for a lo-oong time. I have no idea how I’m going to eat this. First off, there’s this layer of thick sweet black sauce on the pork chop which I absolutely will not eat. So I scraped it all off. Every bit of it.

Second, everything on the plate is dry and disconnected. Something is missing here. Usually there would be an accompanying soup or gravy (even on the veggies) or something to pull everything together and make it presentable. Nothing! This just looks like something a kindergartener might’ve made out of playdough. Ugh!

*Big groan* Dear Food Gods, I hope you guys are having fun playing with me. First, no service. Now this. I just can’t win today, can I? You just won’t let me. Not only am I not getting my fried rice, I got this. Just look at it. How do I eat this? Seriously!

I’m not sure what I was more sore about – the fact that I didn’t get my fried rice or the fact that my order turned out to be these four arid, standalone things on a plate. Looking on the positive side, maybe their fried rice could’ve tasted worse than this, who knows? Now wouldn’t that be hilarious!!

The thorns must be laughing

The thorns must be laughing
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How I ended up at, of all places, a durian restaurant, I don’t know. But yup, even the thorns must be laughing at me. While driving past one the other day, I recall my passenger having mentioned durians twice in the past week. She didn’t exactly say she wanted to eat them but in the Asian culture, many things are never said directly but often inferred from knowing someone well.

Oh yes, about the durian (pronounced dew-ree-ann). In case you’re wondering, it’s a fruit with a thick skin of thorns protecting the luscious seeded fruits inside. It’s a fruit like no other – you either love it or hate it. One whiff of that odor or fragrance (depending on how you view it) of rotten eggs is enough to put some people off forever and transport others to the edge of heaven.

The thorns must be laughing

I kinda think of it as an acquired taste. If you can get past the first 126 and a half possibly nauseatingly pungent mouthfuls, there’s a good chance you may just come to like it? Maybe even crave it? Thing is you won’t know till you try, and by then, it may be too late, your tastebuds may forever be doomed. Or captivated, who knows?

I used to like durians when I was a kid. But after returning from studying in the US, I was totally turned off it aka showed no interest, wouldn’t touch it for years. These days, I’m okay with it but it’s not a big deal to me. If it’s there, I’ll eat it. If it’s not, I’m not going out of my way, as is my attitude with most foods anyways.

So you could think of me as someone who wouldn’t normally give roadside durian restaurants a second glance. It’s too sunny and blazing hot to get out of the car, and frankly, I’m not particularly drawn to (to put it mildly) eating at places that offer scenic views of pails, garbage bins and yucky floors! Then there’s this thing about the sticky, messy business of eating durians in public which I’d rather not have to deal with.

Okay, so I turn to my passenger and asks if she wants durians for lunch, hoping she’d say no. She’s hesitant, but only because she knows me too well. Her answer isn’t clear so I infer it’s a yes. So I turn “excitedly” into the parking lot, hoping not to find a spot. But there it is, right there and I’m like, oh “lucky” us!!

I’m not sure if we’re there at the right time but it sure don’t look to me like there’re as many durians as I would expect. But that’s not the problem. One look at the laminated menu of the different varieties of the fruit and I’m stumped. A menu?! You gotta be kiddin’ me! I read and re-read the items. Apart from a couple of more famous varieties, I’ve no idea about the rest. Besides, all the fruits look the same so how do you tell?

Well, looks like we’re off to a great start already!

I discreetly try to blend in with the people milling around the glove-handed, knife-wielding sellers, hoping to glean some information to use in my own decision-making. Very quickly, it becomes apparent there’s not much information to be gleaned. Everyone seems to know what they want. So where does that leave me?

The thorns must be laughing

I look around at the sellers trying to pick one who looks the kindest and most likely to be patient with me. Ah yes, I see him! A skinny guy with glasses talking to a young man in front of me. Yes, this is the guy I want! He starts going on about the most expensive and raved about variety. And if you know me, you know I really don’t care about brand names.

I’m like, look bro, my brains are running on weekend mode so please spare me the 101 and just find me a fruit that’s bitter. and one that’s sweet for my passenger. and I don’t care which variety. Turns out to be a great decision on my part. He picks us some mighty fine fruits and soon, I’m flagging him down again for more.

The thorns must be laughing

What’s nice is that there’s a ready expert to select and open up the fruit for me. It’s definitely better than trying to pry them open yourself like we (not me) used to in the old days. Thankfully these days, the thorny work is part of customer service and a price you wouldn’t mind paying if you value your fingers.

Given a choice, I’d much prefer having durians drop from the sky like they always do but I’d say this experience has been somewhat bearable? Except for the ambiance, and the hassle of eating it in public (but at least plastic gloves and tissues are provided).¬†Would I do this again? Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe, if I’m under duress. Unlikely, if there’s a choice. Probably not, if I can help it lol.

Carrot at the end of the yawn

Carrot at the end of the yawn
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I’ll be honest. Grocery runs are getting to be a big old yawn. Things seem to be the same old, same old at the grocery store every week. I can think of grocery stores where each season brings new and exciting fruits, vegetables and products and where there’s always a yummy surprise waiting around the corner. Just a mirage, I tell myself, just a mirage, ain’t happenin’ here, just keep movin’, let’s get this over with.

The only bright spark in my grocery runs these days is lunch. Yeah, that’s right, at the very least, if nothing else, there’s that delicious carrot dangling in front of me as I run into the same old grocery dead ends. The thought of lunch inspires me to get my shopping done faster and if there’s self-checkout, you can bet I’ll be rushing over there versus the regular lines.

Once out the door, me and my shopping cart will be racing in the direction of food. Okay, so it’s obvious that a picky eater doesn’t have a whole lot of choices. What to eat, what to eat? Most times, to make life simple, I just go for the same thing. No point taxing my brains too much. I just wanna plant myself at a cool spot and chow down, know what I mean?

After eliminating a whole bunch of the things I don’t or won’t eat, there’s not much left really. But on occasion, I do get lucky and manage to assemble a small feast such as this. Freshly-made spring rolls, ondeh-ondeh (desiccated coconut-coated balls with brown sugar filling) and sushi, that’s a meal right there.

Carrot at the end of the yawn

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat all of this. I couldn’t if I tried nor would I want to try. Years of lunching with the Folks from Finance have taught me to do the math. If it works out cheaper in ‘bulk’, go for the ‘bulk’. This worked out even better because everything came in boxes that I can just chuck the leftovers into my ecobag and be on my way.

Though everything here was passable, I wish the spring rolls were less sweet and the ondeh-ondeh much less diabetic. As for the sushi, I’m not usually a big fan but these ones are okay because of the ratio of rice versus filling.

Carrot at the end of the yawn

These sushis are scarce, almost non-existent on wasabi, hence BYO handy-dandy wasabi! Sure, they do sell little wasabi packets at checkout but the portions are tiny and they somehow look stale and unappetizing to me. And that’s all, folks, as far as lunch is concerned. till it’s time for the next big ya-aawn!

The tale of two Christmas Eve dinners

The tale of two Christmas Eve dinners
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Christmas Eve in the city. Bah humbug! Darn the Grinch who stole Christmas from us this year! Still it’s the holidays so we’ll just make-believe this one and get to the mall early to catch a movie. Which one? Naturally the one that turned out to be such a great choice.

Ferdinand.

What a sweet hunk of a bull and a tale that has all the heart-warming trappings of a movie for this time of year – kindness, compassion, friendship, respect, teamwork and a happy ending. And lots of funky dancing. Loved it. I really did. Go watch it, bring your kids!

After the movie at around 2pm, we thought we’d catch a late lunch. No such luck! Apparently the mall had filled up with all of humanity while we were in there, making it impossible to walk without hitting anyone. We couldn’t have picked a worse time to be at the mall.

We were starving and the restaurant lines were insane. We were hoping to have better luck at the food court. Omg, one look and we instantly turned around. The place was one freakin’ mess and we kinda lost our appetites. We simply had to get the heck out of there.

It was 3pm by the time we got home and proceeded to turn the fridge upside down hoping a fulfilling lunch would somehow drop out. But all we had were cold ham sandwiches. Still better than the food court, I guess. Bah humbug!

Still determined to have a good Christmas dinner in spite of our homemade roast turkey having been written off the menu *sobs*, we set out for the swanky part of town with Google Maps for our guide, headed for a Korean fried chicken shop which friends have sworn “serves the best fried chicken ever, you gotta try it”.

We ordered 2 kinds of fried chicken – sweet spicy and spicy hot, or something like that. Sometimes we really wanna trust people’s food recommendations so much but sadly, one woman’s meat is another woman’s poison. We really wanted these to be the best fried chicken we’ve ever tasted but they turned out to be…

The tale of the Christmas Eve dinners

… far from crispy, drowned in overly-sweet totally-unspicy sauces that sadly underwhelmed; not to mention that there were no signs of the ubiquitous side dishes either. Ugh! Reluctantly we polished off both servings to keep to our family’s “no food wastage” policy.

Then we got up and walked a few steps down the street to a Korean barbecue restaurant that we know and love, and ordered pork neck and pork belly. Ahahaha! Now we’re talking!

The tale of the Christmas Eve dinners

This meal came with lots of lettuce, side dishes and possibly the best kimchi in town. We even managed to flag down a smiley waiter to barbecue the meat for us while we ate. Aah, this is the life!

Long days and the deception of work

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When my morning alarm goes off, I jump up with a start thinking that I’ve overslept because the sun’s shining so bright it’s like high noon outside. I stumble across to my cell phone at the other side of the room and whew, it’s only 6-ish. To those of us who’re constantly complaining that we don’t have enough hours in a day to get everything done, these unseasonably, incredibly long summer spring days are a dream come true.

Getting an early start knowing you have a full 15 hours of daylight ahead of you is a great feeling. While it’s technically not quite summer yet, Summer seems intent on elbowing Spring swiftly out of the way. And if our air-conditioning weren’t acting up so often, that great feeling might easily be a superlative. Except the darned thing keeps blowing hot air instead of cold.

So between toasty temperatures and cranky AC, we figured we really must do something about it. We did the next best thing: jump in the car and drive to San Francisco to escape the heat. Well, okay, the heat was one thing but our real excuse was the Memorial Day sales. Now if you’re a serious shopaholic, you don’t just stand there doing nothing when it’s raining discounts and promos out there.

Two productive days of retail therapy later, I’m happy to report we have a few, not many bagfuls of spoils to show for our hard work. Shopping is work? You’d better believe it! Do you know how many pairs of jeans I had to try on before I found my one true love? And don’t even get me started on the shoes. Sifting through rack after rack, shelf after shelf, hunting down your size, waiting in line for the fitting room clutching armfuls of clothes, yeah!

But it’s only when you get into the fitting room that’s when the real work (or workout, depending on how you look at it) begins. You’re doing countless squats trying on a pile of jeans and your ankle socks keep coming off with your jeans and you’re doing countless bends to get them back on. At some point, I hear someone saying, to heck with these socks, I’m leaving them off. But not me, I hate stepping on the cold, sandy floor and getting my bare feet dirty… so I keep on keeping on with the battle of the socks!

So yeah, it would seem, and I’m not even going to fault you for thinking, that it’s been all play and no work around here lol. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that around here, the term ‘work’ often takes on meanings that are worlds away from how others may view it.

Peace out… uttered with tongue in cheek.

Nourishing salmon oil hair treatment

Nourishing salmon oil hair treatment
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If you were excited at the title of this post and you’re considering jumping on the nourishing salmon oil hair treatment bandwagon, read on to find out how you too can recreate this wonderful hair treatment in your own home. Ooh, this is exciting! I promise, your hair will thank you for it lol.

There I am looking in the freezer going eeny-meeny-miny-mo and there’s the salmon fillet jumping up and down going, “Pick me, pick me!” Okay, okay! So fried salmon in sweet and spicy sauce it is! Frying salmon, now that’d be interesting. I mean, how often do people fry salmon, right?

Nourishing salmon oil hair treatment

No, not deep-fry! Even shallow frying isn’t my first choice but I guess that’s part of the adventure of cooking. To go down the greasy path of oil splatters every now and then. Even if it means donning armor apron and arming myself with tongs, spatula and shield ala pot cover.

With a swoosh and a sizzle, the fillet hits the oil and starts singing the shallow fry song. That’s the very moment I went: Aa-aargh, there goes my freshly washed hair! Dang it, I knew I should’ve put my shower cap on!!

But for the love of food and cooking, I was willing to pretend that I was at the salon having my hair smoked or cooked or whatever it is people fork out a fortune for these days. Yup, it’s the salmon oil hair treatment, y’all – ever heard of it? No? What??! It’s the latest trend! I got mine for free and now my hair’s all shiny and smoky, see!!

Feeling like quite the glamorous chef now with my newly-done hair, I’m on to concocting the sweet and spicy sauce, which came out really nice and thick, by the way, and in abundance too.

Nourishing salmon oil hair treatment

To say that my fried salmon in sweet and spicy sauce was yummy would be an understatement. It was insanely good! I realized with glee that I had enough sauce to make this dish one more time. You mean you got that nourishing salmon oil hair treatment twice?!? You better believe it. If I keep doing this, I might even get myself a spot on a Clairol ad, shiny cascading curls and all *rotfl*.

That frozen yogurt surprise

That frozen yogurt surprise
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When I heard we were going to Yogurtland for dessert, I was like, what? First off, I didn’t think my kids liked yogurt (all that much!). Secondly, how did they figure out that frozen yogurt is even a dessert? The poor things grew up believing that dessert meant fruits and nothing else. I made sure of that.

I made pretty darned sure they didn’t find out about the other kinds of dessert. So no cakes (except on birthdays), no chocolate, no candy, no soupy, gooey Asian desserts. None of that! I think ice cream was probably their only vice growing up, and even then, it was more of a treat than a given.

So yeah, I’m surprised they found out about Yogurtland. Omg, how did that happen? And there’s a wall of yummy choices too and enough combinations to make anyone dizzy.

That frozen yogurt surprise

So while they grabbed a cup each, I was happy to tag along sans one. I’m not big on this kind of dessert so I’m content to savor a mouthful here, a mouthful there. That’s good enough for me.

That frozen yogurt surprise

As we moved up the line to the endless selection of toppings (this picture doesn’t even show the half of it), I was like, wow, this is crazy! I’ll have no part in this lol!

That frozen yogurt surprise

You can help yourself to whatever flavors and toppings you like and it’s charged by weight. Ours was a modest cup that tasted clean and refreshing without being overly flavored or sweet. Delicious!! Next time, I might have to get my own cup.

That frozen yogurt surprise

So yeah, it looks like going to Yogurtland has suddenly become a thing with the folks for whom going out for dessert is almost unheard of. What’s up with that? The last time we ventured out for dessert, we came away unimpressed. But that was then. Apparently now, randomly swinging by Yogurtland isn’t so surprising any more.

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet
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So I get a text asking, What’s for dinner? and my answer was steamed fish fillet. In my head, there’s this pretty picture of my tilapia fillets steaming merrily away in a metal plate that’s sitting on a steamer rack that’s sitting in my big pot.

See, I don’t own a steamer. Not even one of those bamboo dinosaurs, and certainly not a 3-storey electric glass tower that one of my aunts proudly displays in her kitchen of appliances. Yeah, I can so see the poor fish taking the elevator to the top floor of her steamer? Hahaha!

Since I don’t have a steamer, steaming is a rare word in my kitchen vocab. I love steamed fish with all that colorful garnishing and tasty sauce. But the thought of doing those stunts with the metal plate and the steamer rack and that clunk of a pot puts me off.

The pretty picture in my head quickly dissipates and my enthusiasm falls to the floor. Surely there must be a better way to steam fish without actually steaming it. Lol, I’m full of fun ideas but not much of an Asian cook. Fun as in creative? crazy? weird? I think I’ll go with creative. A little boost in the old self-esteem department never hurt.

Cooking Asian food is something I’ve only started doing on and off in the last few years. Not sure if it’s cooking, more like creative fudging. On a good day, everyone will applaud and call for an encore. On a not-so-good day, I’ll be blaming my pots and pans.

Have I digressed? Yes, I have. Okay, back to the fish. Long story short, I told myself, forget the stunts and just poach the fish. Which was a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself. So the 4 fish fillets went into my pan and when it was done (or was it?), the poor fish had turned a pasty white. Which was quite off-putting!

So I put a drop of olive oil into the pan and fried them to give it some color? Haha, now there’s no question about the fish being fully cooked. Brilliant again! By the time, my fish fillets had been poached and fried and garnished, this is what we have.

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

Now that looks much better and they smell heavenly too, like fish and chips. Not kiddin’! I made a light sauce and finished off with a ton of garnishing and ta-daa!

Fantastic Four Fish Fillet

I love how it looks. Almost professional, huh? Almost! Now for the million dollar question: How did it taste? Fantastic! Of course, and it sure beats dealing with those bothersome fish bones. We-eell, maybe it could use a little more sauce. Maybe. Definitely. Important thing is it passed the Picky Eater test and that usually means a repeat performance is next.

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