Saturday, March 31, 2012

New York Minute

It’s a funny thing living in an apartment in the city. The buildings are compact, the walls are thin, and there is always a crazy neighbor. My current building is a six story pre-war with 66 units between two wings. It’s a far cry from my previous high rise but I find it just as modern and spacious.

One of the first things I look at when moving into a place is the view. Whether it is a view of the river, the park, a brick wall or a garage, I think it is all part of the charm. I remember the day I was viewed my apartment. I looked out of the living room window and saw the Empire State Building. There was a fabulous view of Midtown and I felt like I had just found the diamond in the rough. I moved in two weeks later and quickly settled. I had a galley kitchen with a little window. Sometimes the pigeons stood on the sill. Sometimes the rain would leak through. Sometimes I’d leave the window open while I cooked for ventilation but most of the time I’d just be staring out onto an ugly brick wall and a bunch of windows with shades and curtains.

Privacy is something worth guarding in New York City. We are constantly surrounded by noise and people that your personal space becomes something so luxurious. For the first time in two years, I had a place that I could call my own. I loved not having roommates and I loved cooking for myself in my little kitchen. There was something so much more satisfying about it than just picking up the phone and dialing for delivery.

Occasionally, I’d look out my kitchen window and peep at my neighbors curious how their city dwellings were and how they spent their time. I noticed they had the same layout and kitchen appliances as I did. Their homes weren’t anything to be envious or intrigued about. They were one and the same made differently by the owner’s personal taste. As far as anything racy went, the most action I came across was the couple one floor down. They’d kiss and cuddle in the kitchen but nothing more than that. They quickly lost my interest and blended in as part of the backdrop.

The other night as I was washing dishes I glanced over and caught a glimpse of my neighbor as she stood over the stove tending to a frying pan. I did a double take and saw that she clearly had a bun in the oven. Her stomach protruded and it looked like she could be six months pregnant. I finished washing my dishes but the image of my neighbor stayed with me. Clearly the harmless canoodling had evolved into something else!

I could not help but think that in a few months I may look over into their window and see them balancing a baby in their arms with a burping towel on their shoulder all while cooking something on the stove. I could look over and it might be entirely new neighbors or a new color scheme with different furniture. I had been in my apartment for two years and it took the changes in my neighbor for me to realize how quickly time passes by in the city. Come Fall, I’ll be moving to a new place ready for new experiences, new adventures, and new neighbors. I’ve tackled a rodent problem, dealt with an eccentric neighbor, threw my very first hurricane party, survived a hurricane, installed a portable air conditioning unit, and encountered so many issues I would not have normally come across in the suburbs.

I’m centering in on my five year anniversary of moving to the East Coast. When I first moved here, I said I’d be good for just five years and then ready to move back to suburban life. Now that that five is coming about, I could not picture my life any other way. I don’t think I’ll be running back to the suburbs any time soon. The traffic, the noise, the variety of daily life, and constant motion has become a part of my life. I’ve adapted and I’ve adapted willingly.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teamwork and Volunteering- New York City FIRST LEGO League

Volunteering has always been a part of my life whether it was raising money for charities, tutoring children at women’s shelters, doing home maintenance at a halfway house, or caroling for the elderly. It is very rewarding to be a part of a community and to lend a helping hand when people and organizations are in need. I feel that sometimes in order to succeed, teamwork is necessary and your contribution can really make a difference.

Scoring and Ranking Station
This year, I started volunteering for New York City FIRST LEGO League. FLL is a program that introduces students as young as the age of six all the way up to middle school into the world of robotics. Through robots, students explore math and science concepts as they act like engineers to create solutions and solve missions that are relatable to modern day issues.

This year’s FLL theme is Food Factor. Each team of up to 10 participants had to build a LEGO robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology. The robot is programmed and controlled by a little computer chip. It’s all very high tech and possible to master. No prior technical skills required! The main challenge in the competition was to complete various missions such as pest control, oblige to health standards, and to harvest crops all through these robots. Each team had two and a half minutes to complete as many missions as possible.

The Robot Game and robot in action:

The event requires a large team of volunteers. There is an emcee, sign in table, cleaning crew, referees, time keepers, etc. I volunteered to be a Score Keeper and Field Power Controller. My job was to take the score cards from the referees and enter in each team’s winnings to populate the rankings. It is a time sensitive role and one of high pressure especially when there can be as many as 25 teams and multiple rounds. Everyone wants to know their score and rank. Plus the scores are projected live on the main screen.

I was amazed by the composure, enthusiasm, and intellect of the students. This competition exposes the students to real life scenarios where team work, communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills must be utilized and fostered. There is a lot of support for the teams as mentors, parents, classmates, mascots, and friends cheered on in the sidelines.

Robo Pandas
Food Fighters
The winning team of each borough gets to go on to the next level and eventually there is a larger competition with teams from all over the world. The next big event will be at the Jacob K. Javits center in Manhattan on March 16-18. This event will host a career fair, New York City FIRST Robotics Competition, Tech Challenge Championship, LEGO League Championship, and JrFIRST LEGO League Exposition.

There is a need for plenty of volunteers. If you would like to help out and volunteer, please go to the FIRST website to learn about the volunteer roles and follow the volunteer sign up instructions to get registered. Be a part of the FLL community.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ippudo- Coming To A Grocery Store Near You

One of the perks of walking through the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show is getting promotional products such as pens, t-shirts, bags, and totes.

My most prized take home item was a personalized serving of Ippudo ramen.

Folks, by the end of the year, Ippudo will be in your local grocery stores. Ippudo, the famous Japanese ramen house, is going mainstream. They already sell their ramen at grocery stores in Japan and are making the move to America.

The booth at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show boasted two variations: Akamaru Modern and Shiromaru Hakata Classic. The representative was hesitant to give me the Akamaru Modern. He kept telling everyone it was the more complex flavor. I was given the classic original.

Shiromaru Hakata Classic
This is what the ramen package looks like. It's a tiny cardboard box, a far cry from the plastic wrappers of Nissin Top Ramen and Maruchan.

Tonkotsu noodles
The fresh noodles for the classic ramen are tonkotsu square. They take 30 seconds to boil. I was not sure whether to keep the ramen refrigerated or stored in the cupboard. I ended up keeping the ramen in the fridge and cooked it two days after I got them from the tradeshow.

Ramen kit contents
The Ippudo ramen kit contained a soup base, sesame seeds, noodles, grated ginger and garlic, and scallions. I'm actually guessing on the last two packets (pictured in the back). All of the packaging was in Japanese. I had no idea what certain ingredients were. I will say this, it looked like the soup base was half white pork fat. Mmmmmm. So that is the secret ingredient to the creaminess and hearty flavoring of the soup.

Ramen instructions
I wish there were an English translation to the packaging, ingredient list, and cooking instructions. Anybody know what 3 cc means? I took a wild guess and ended up using 4 cups of water for the soup.

Shiromaru Hakata Classic cooked
This is the final product of the "sold in the grocery stores" version of Ippudo ramen. The flavor is very complex. After all the packets are thrown in, this is what you get. It's pretty rich and redefines what ramen at home is. I highly recommend it. I don't know what the retail price point is but I'm guessing it is a lot lower than the $15 price tag at the restaurant. This is poor college student grown up to the next level.

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show


Monday, March 5, 2012

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show- Part I

Meet companies and chefs from around the world!
Ever wanted to sample your way around the world? Learn about the restaurant industry's latest trends? Experience a pastry competition? Know the secrets to building a business online and through couponing?

The International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York began yesterday, March 4th, and will go on through Tuesday, March 6th. It will be three days worth of food samples, demos, and seminars at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The exhibit opens daily at 10 AM and what better way to start the morning than with a sample of Blue Marble! This Brooklyn based organic ice cream parlor won Time Out New York's 2009 Eat Out award.  They were handing out little cups of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate.

Individual serving sizes of Blue Marble
Too sweet to stomach? Adam Tiberio is on hand to show off Tiberio Custom Meats. He is chopping up a little head cheese made out of pig's head, feet, and other scraps.

Delicious jellied pig head.
If you're looking for beefier and heartier food samples that could substitute for lunch, make your way through to the Japanese section. They are handing out tote bags for Japan Week (festivities in New York run from March 1 - March 11), sushi, Japanese barbecue, tofu, and lots of ramen.

Japan's #1 ranked ramen chef in Japan Shigetoshi Nakamura was creating pork ramen for Sun Noodle. Sun Noodle, which is based out of New Jersey, offers four different types of fresh ramen noodles: tonkotsu, whole wheat, tsukemen, and temomi. These noodles which can be wavy, flat, or straight are matched to a ramen's unique broth.

Japan's celebrity chef Shigetoshi Nakamura
Pork Tonkotsu ramen made by Japan's #1 ramen chef
The food samples were endless and included all types of cuisines from all over the globe. Pace yourself!

There is a lot to experience at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show. Stay tuned for Part II.

International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York

Blue Marble

Tiberio Custom Meats

Sun Noodle