Celebrating English Language Day

Apparently it’s William Shakespeare’s birthday today. Well, history has it that he was born and died on the same day. It turns out those aren’t the only coincidences ‘cos, what do you know, today also happens to be English Language Day! I had no idea! The two things in the world that I’m craziest about are celebrated on the same day and I didn’t know? Duh!!!

At any rate, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in some long ago blog post that I grew up reading Shakespeare and happen to be a big fan of his plays. Although I don’t quote him out loud as often as I used to, his quotes still do pop up in my mind every now and then. It’s still my ambition to be as great a writer as he was when I grow up.

As for that other love of mine, the English language, what can I say?  It is, to me, the most beautiful language in the world. So why aren’t people more serious about learning it and getting it right? I could write a book about that. Suffice to say that over the years, I’ve watched the standard of English decline to a level where some days, it sounds and looks almost unrecognizable to me.

Yes, English is important and it’s not enough to say “I only need enough of it to get by in daily life” because from what I can see, it’s clearly not enough. It’s not enough to be able to string together some random words in no particular order and with a total disregard for grammar and pronunciation. And yes, I’m frustrated at people who refuse to learn.

But clearly today is not the day to lament about what we can’t change. It’s a day to celebrate the fathomless power and elegance of the English language!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

I don’t know why we picked a sizzler of a day for a Korean barbecue buffet lunch. Probably not a great idea to pile heat on heat. But considering the watermelons we’ve been gobbling and the fact that our regular buffet restaurant has opened up at a new location with some swanky new features, we figured that was reason enough.

Trust the early birds to be there at opening time in anticipation of a big Sunday lunch crowd. We were among the first and practically had the whole place to ourselves. Which was nice, of course because we’ve been to busy, noisy buffet and steamboat places where we were choking on our food the whole time, and it was impossible to talk without shouting.

This place is very spacious and everything is shiny and clean (love it), and even boasts a long banchan bar packed with side dishes and fresh accompaniments like mushrooms and lettuce. At the old location, we had to flag down servers to top up our side dishes and lettuce to the point of embarrassment. So this is good.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

We started looking through the lunch menu for raw meat to order but our server pointed us to the dinner menu instead because hey, what d’ya know, it’s dinner all day Sundays. What?! *scowls* Something’s not right about paying dinner prices for lunch. That kinda dampened the mood for us – but only for a while because we were hungry and all set to dig in.

As usual, we ordered two pajeon (pancakes), and tofu soup which I love. It’s sourish, gingery and piping hot with lots of tofu and mushrooms.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the first round of meat, we had the spicy and non-spicy pork bulgogi, and pork belly. Omg!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

Then we noticed there was seafood on the dinner menu (which is new to us since we’ve only ever been there for lunch) and decided to try the squid, octopus and shrimps. They tasted okay, a bit like eating erasers and I’m not real crazy about peeling those shrimps.

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

For the third round of meat, we went with an encore of the 3 porks we had earlier. Mmm! I was having a ball with the lettuce wraps which I love, love, love.

I still have no idea though how to stuff the entire lettuce leaf plus filling into my mouth all in one go, not that I’m even going to try. Apparently that’s the right way to eat it. But I mean, I’m all dressed and prettied up with lipstick and everything, and I’m gonna jam the whole wrap into my mouth?? Um, NO!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

As you can see, between the meat and the trips to the banchan bar, we really didn’t eat that much! and we didn’t waste any food either. Of course, I was thrilled at how many side dishes a dinner plate can hold which meant fewer trips to the banchan bar.

But I quickly realized that banchan somehow tastes better in little plates than in a big old dinner plate. So maybe that’s why they’re traditionally served in little plates but I’d sure hate to be the one doing the dishes later, haha!

The barbecue buffet lunch that was dinner

So that was one lunch that cost us the price of a dinner. Our wallet wasn’t too happy but our tummies certainly were.

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

We’ve had shrimp scampi pasta three times in these two weeks. If something tastes good, just cook it again, and again, that’s how we roll. Nothing wrong with that. And it’s all because we recently started buying tail-on frozen shrimp that’s been cleaned and deveined instead of the cooked shrimp we usually buy.

These raw shrimps are great because they go straight from the freezer into the pot with very little thawing required. I usually soak them in a bowl of water for a few minutes to remove the icicles and to soften them just a little.

Cooked shrimps will shrink quite a bit when cooked. Lol I like that – when cooked shrimps are cooked!! What the heck am I saying? Anyhow since they’re already cooked, I can’t leave them in for too long or there’ll be nothing left to eat. But these raw shrimps don’t shrink all that much and still pack a mouthful when fully cooked.

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

My experience with shrimp has left me completely unimpressed. I don’t eat live seafood and rarely cook shrimp at home. The only shrimps I eat are probably the ones in eat-out noodles, etc. and even then, those are always either minuscule or stale. So I’ve learned not to expect much. If I can see the shrimps without a magnifying glass and they don’t disintegrate when chewed on, I’m laughing!

This shrimp scampi pasta is Hip2bDaughter1’s creation tossed with love and cherry tomatoes. And those are not your regular wimpy skimpy shrimps. They’re plump, juicy and pack a crunch and a bounce. Three times in two weeks ain’t much *winks*. Keep it coming!

Not your wimpy skimpy shrimp scampi

In-N-Out replay

In-N-Out replay

The next morning, we were back at the stores at opening time. Right on the dot. There’s no time to waste now! Needless to say, we spent the entire morning doing what we do best.

Just for the heck of it, we decided to have lunch at the same outlet where we had our first taste of In-N-Out. From experience, we know this (and many other) In-N-Out’s are perpetually swarming with people, practically any time of day. There was just no way we could get a table inside, and even if we could get a table outside, we wouldn’t have wanted to sit in the sun.

So we took the drive-thru which if you’re thinking is much faster, it’s not. The line is like miles long but at least we get to karaoke and dance to k-pop in a/c comfort. On the way out of the drive-thru, we noticed a family having an In-and-Out picnic under their SUV hood out back.

So you see In-N-Out lovers can get pretty creative. We ate ours in the car too right there in the parking lot the first time we were here. Except this time, the parking lot was full, and so with our cheeseburgers, fries and free water…

In-N-Out replay

… we drove straight back to the stores, parked in the only spot we could find which happened to be in the semi-shade of a very skinny tree, wound down the windows (the sun may be blazing outside but the air is still pretty cool at 11:00am) and had a picnic in the car.

In-N-Out replay

Mmm mmm mmm! Tell me, how can a $2.35 cheeseburger taste this good? Oh man! I may not eat burgers very often but when I do, this is it! The only burger I’ll eat, no matter which side of the planet I’m on. ’nuff said.

In-N-Out replay

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

In the early evening, we took a break from an afternoon’s ‘hard work’ and headed out for dinner at Saigon 2 Siam, an Indochinese restaurant we’d discovered on our previous trip to Gilroy. Back then, we’d gone back there two nights in a row to savor their tasty fare, and this time, we’d been so looking forward to eating there again.

What we hadn’t anticipated though was how popular this place had become. It was the only restaurant on the strip with a crowd waiting outside. Bah humbug! and we thought WE were early! Man, it wasn’t even officially dinner time yet!

We asked the staff how long the wait time would be (because we needed to get back to ‘work” and didn’t want to waste any time lol) but he couldn’t tell us because there was no actual line. At any rate, we left our name and phone number for him to call us when a table became available.

Which obviously wasn’t gonna to happen since the staff were all so ultra busy no one was keeping track of who got there first. Usually people would be honest and not cut the line but since the crowd looked hungry and touristy, well, who knows?!!

A half hour later, we went back to check. Thankfully a family was slowly, ve-ry ve-r-ry slowly gathering up their reluctant kids to leave. And when they finally did leave, they left a table strewn with mountains of tissues and the floor littered with rice! And we had to wait some more for the staff to clean up their mess.

Outside the crowd was growing. The poor staff were trying hard to stay calm and serve while we were trying hard to tell our tummies to keep the noise down with tiny sips of the cucumber-infused water they’d served us. Yes, water is free and free flow, and it being cucumber-infused is a definite bonus.

We fell in love with their Drunken Noodles on our last visit. It was crazy delicious. So naturally we had to order it again. Sadly though, it didn’t taste quite the same. I’m guessing they’ve tuned it down. It’s now milder, much sweeter, and not fiery enough for us (should’ve asked them to up the fire index, darn!).

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Speaking of sweet, the Pad Thai was way sweet and not quite the expected tangy, savory taste. The color too was somewhat unexpected. We were fairly stuffed by the time we got to this plate and had to box the leftovers and find a way to finish it later.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

Now after our recent Vermicelli Bowl discovery back at Hipville, we were thrilled to see it here on their menu and ordered it immediately. So glad we did. It was simply delicious. Love the presentation too.

Vietnamese-Thai noodles x 3

So with dinner out of the way, we sped back to the stores to continue our good work. Yes!

Bowled over

Bowled over

We had to make a trip to the k-mart to stock up on kimchi, gojuchang and some other supplies. The k-mart is kinda out of the way for us and it doesn’t open till 12:00pm on Sundays. So we decided to slip in lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby.

We’ve been to this eatery a couple of times but somehow couldn’t really remember how their food tasted. There were probably things we liked and some we didn’t but we couldn’t recall which was which. So we did what any other seasoned foodie would do. We eeny meeny miny moed our way across the menu, then sat back and crossed our fingers hoping we’d made the right choices.

Well, we’ll see…

I’ll have to say the beef ball noodle soup wasn’t what I’d expected. There was wa-ay too much bean sprouts. More than flat rice noodles, in fact. To a diehard carb freak like me, that’s a bitter bitter disappointment. I WANT my noodles and I want them NOW! I thought the homemade beef balls would lift me out of my misery but nope, they were hard as rocks.

Bowled over

When Hip2bDaughter’s grilled pork and shrimp vermicelli bowl arrived, I eyed it cautiously. I didn’t know how they would taste but that bowl sure looked better than mine! The minute I tasted it, I about fell off my chair. Huh?!

Bowled over

These noodles were so-oo good and they weren’t even served hot. You know how I feel about noodles that aren’t hot. You’ve heard my gripe about cold noodles and my compromise with room temperature noodles.

Well, let’s just say this may well have sealed the deal for me. I will admit now that I’m totally sold on room temp noodles. Seriously! Well, I may go back on my word later if we find something better but for now, just give them this vermicelli bowl…

… bursting with shrimp, grilled pork (that tasted like char siew, or Asian style barbecued pork), veggies and there was even an egg roll thrown in for good measure. Oh man, that egg roll!! It’s making me drool right now thinking of it.

Although there are items on the menu we’re not crazy about, this place is going into our Pearl (aka Picky Eater Approved Restaurant List) if only for their tasty vermicelli bowl. We were sharing these two orders here. But the next time, I’m going to order my very own vermicelli bowl and I’d like to see anyone try to stop me *rubs hands together greedily*!

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Dessert, to the uninitiated

We were in the middle of dinner at home on a Thursday night when Hip2bDad broached the idea of going out for dessert. It took a while for the idea to sink in.

Usually you’d hear me say we went out for dinner, the end. A few times a year, we might have a random cake or ice cream if we happen to be out, or if there’s something to celebrate. But getting dressed after dinner and heading out for dessert just for the dessert, now that’s a new concept to us!

By now, you’re thinking, what’s wrong with these people, you don’t eat dessert?! We do. But to us, dessert = fruits. I know, I’m a bad mom. Like me, my kids were raised with ‘dessert’ being a low frequency word. They’d get cake only on their birthdays and maybe a couple times a year when there’s something to celebrate bwahaha.

Anyhoo, we jumped into our shorts, then into the car and promptly arrived at one of those new-fangled green tea dessert places I didn’t even know existed. I sat back and left dad and daughters to figure out the orders. It doesn’t matter to me because I’ll just have one or two bites here and there, and that’s it.

Well, they came back with 2 kinds of green tea ice cream cones – matcha and hojicha.

Dessert, to the uninitiated

These two cones went round the table a couple of times and everyone made funny contorted faces after each slurp. There was a huge discussion on which one tasted better or none of the above, but we couldn’t quite reach a consensus. So Hip2bDad graciously ended up gobbling both. We can always count on him!

Then like a man on a mission, he led us down the street in search of another dessert joint. Here again, I sat back and waited to see what they’d ordered. First up, this honey toast. Tis a thicker-than-thou slice of white bread slathered with salted butter, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream (which was wasted on us).

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Hip2bDaughter1’s friends had ordered this on one of their outings and she wanted us to try it. At a glance, it didn’t strike me that this was nothing more than bread with ice cream. But once the price sank in, I was like, I could bake 25 loaves of this and then some. Price-worthiness is as big a consideration as taste, but that’s just me.

Here, the overwhelming saltiness of the butter and barely-there sweetness of the ice cream gave me the shivers. We thought adding honey would balance things up but it only pushed it to a hyper-sweet-and-salty level that sent my tastebuds into spasms.

On the other hand, this peach frozen yogurt shake topped with peaches, blueberries and yes, flowers was perhaps a little too pretty to eat? drink?

Dessert, to the uninitiated

Well, eat it, drink it, we did. The aftertaste, however, could’ve been less reminiscent of cough mixture. The general consensus is that frozen yogurt is thicker and closer to the consistency of sorbet. But I guess this being a shake means it’s meant to be drinkable with a straw – maybe?

And that’s all the dessert we ordered for the 4 of us. For me, the best part of our dessert escapade is their jasmine water. Anytime a restaurant Here offers water free of charge, I say 잘 했어 (thumbs up). Water is a basic human right and diners shouldn’t be made to pay for it.

By the way, this jasmine water is delicious… and refillable so it gets a standing ovation from me.

Dessert, to the uninitiated

So that was dessert night out for the uninitiated. In the end, it was the jasmine water that won the day. For me, at least. So while this has been a really fun random food adventure for us, I doubt we’d be doing this too often. Peace out!

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