Thursday, October 29, 2009

NFL Week 8 (sport, gambling)

This week's picks come early and there's a theme: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.


Lies. Carolina leads the league in passing defense.
Part of that is because they give up 4.4 yards per rush and so most of their opponents haven't bothered to pass much. But will Arizona be able to take advantage, having averaged only 3 yards per rush so far this season? The key is to look beyond the NFL's use of ranking defenses by yards per game. Carolina's passing defense has actually given up a 65.6 completion % as well as a 91.3 QB rating. It's not that Carolina's been good against the pass, but just that opponents haven't had to pass the ball much. Arizona's run defense, however, is legit after another strong display against the Giants, and is averaging 3 yards per rushing attempt by opponents. If Carolina's run game gets stopped and Delhomme (this season's INT leader so far) is asked to keep them in the game, this could get ugly fast.


Damned lies. Buffalo ranks 2nd in the league in opposing QB's rating with 58.
If we look closely at those opponents, we'll see that they've faced Delhomme, Sanchez, and Derek Anderson, three of the lowest rated QBs in the game this season. Other quarterbacks haven't had as much trouble with the Bills, with even Byron Leftwich going for almost 300 yards and 3 TDs.

Damned lies. Buffalo gives up 5.2 yards per rush but Houston also gives up 4.7 yards per rush.
Yet in Houston's last three games, including against rushing leader Cedric Benson, their opponents have averaged less than 3.1 yards per attempt.

Buffalo just barely won their last two games, thanks to a combined 10 takeaways. Can that trend continue? Unless Buffalo comes up with a lot of takeaways again, they won't be able to generate momentum on offense and won't be able to stop Houston on defense. Because Buffalo's run defense is so bad, Houston will probably protect a lead better than they have so far this season.


How can a team that lost by 5 TDs one week be favored by 2TDs the next? Cutler has played pretty much as expected, with high TD and INT numbers. This week should get him back to high TD numbers without the pressure of having to come from behind or much pressure from Cleveland's defense. Statistics. Cleveland managed no sacs last week against Green Bay, a team that had been giving up an average of 5 sacs per game.

The Bears are coming off two tough road losses and will enjoy returning home where they are unbeaten so far this season. The return of Tommie Harris should help Chicago's defense. The Bears will be hungry and want to run it up to vent their frustrations.

Lately I've been eating (food)

I've toned down on the expensive restaurant bingeing since my mom went back to Hong Kong. Lately, I've been eating:

More of the mackerel sandwich from Num Pang for lunch.

Visiting the stalls put up outside Madison Square Park. The crepe stall called Suzette is really good. Had a crepe with ham, swiss, and onions from an onion soup. I also love their fries, which are freshly mandolined so that they're really thin and immediately fried for a great crunch. Just a touch of kosher salt and nothing more is needed. The Cabrito/Fatty Crab kiosk is also amazing having occasionally roasted whole goat on a spit during the last month. Too bad it's all coming to an end after this weekend, this fall mark't was a great idea.

Stopped into the new 55th Street Katsuhama. Always been a fan of the food, but the original storefront was always shabby and kinda dirty. This place, where you walk up a flight of stairs to the dining area, is bright and clean. The menu has more non-katsu and appetizer options , and my favorites from those included the beef tongue that came with a lot of scallions and the jidori nanban, pieces of juicy free range chicken lightly fried on the outside.

Here's the kurobuta katsu set. Almost as good as the Japanese katsu place I frequent when I'm back in Hong Kong. I haven't decided whether I like the regular loin or the tenderloin more. I think the regular has more bite and feels more substantial. The unlimited rice, cabbage, and miso soup is also nice.

Bill's Bar and Burger has gotten a lot of buzz on the food blogs and I've already been twice. Well, I went there with a friend after it had been open for about 4 days, and then left my credit card there so had to go back again. The night we went Josh Ozersky was there too. It's really good and I don't want to get into the debate of who makes the better burger. I'm not that big on the details when it comes to burgers. Some would consider it not juicy enough because it's smashed, but others like the larger surface area for crust. In the end, a burger for me is about the thing as a whole, and they make a terrific one at Bill's. I had (both times) the Bobcat, which is a Bill's classic burger with jack cheese and New Mexico green chilies which give it a nice kick without being overwhelming. We also split the Fat Cat, which is a double with caramelized onions, american cheese, and served on a toasted english muffin. The veggie fries and shakes are also great.

Here's the Bobcat on the right, and the really yummy veggie fries on the left. Lightly battered and fried then sprinkled with some sea salt, you can see the real veggies in there, such as the carrots, broccoli, beans, etc.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NBA Bet of the Decade (sport, gambling)

I'm not exaggerating. This is a bet that is based on this past decade of NBA results. Depending on which sportsbook you look at, the line for the futures bet of regular season wins by the San Antonio Spurs is either 54.5 or 55.5. Since the 00-01 season, the Spurs have had 56 wins or better every season except last season, when they won only 54 games. That was with a hurt Manu Ginobili while this season they have solid additions of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess. The only concerns are a thin-looking bench and with the departure of Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas, the way the team is built this year is a little different from previous years. However, Popovich is essentially the Belichick of the NBA in that he'll figure out a way to maximize the team's performance even with a change in identity (defense oriented Pats teams that turned into the offensive juggernaut Pats teams) and they'll always find decent bench players who work well in the system.

So there's my NBA bet of the decade, the San Antonio regular season wins over, which I would take up to as high as 55.5.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NFL Week 7 (sport, gambling)

This week in addition to three regular picks, I'm going to make a couple of interesting non-traditional picks.


No matter how much was being bet on the big favorites last week, none of their lines really moved off the 14 mark in Vegas. This one however, opened at 14.5 and there have been no signs of any value action taking the points. Tamba Bay has lost by 1 possession to two very bad teams in Carolina and Washington, but has lost by 13 or more points to everyone else. While 14.5 is a lot of points, one of the great things about picking the Patriots is that they won't let up until they have a comfortable lead, which for them is at least 4 TDs. With the trip to England being a once a year thing for only two teams, one can only guess that in terms of preparation Belichick's edge is even bigger than usual.

Under 35

I think last week's Phi-Oak game was a complete outlier and Oakland will go back to being very very bad again. Not counting Oakland's first game, where their rushing attack came out and ran all over the Chargers, Oakland has been averaging 8.4 points per game. Even without Kris Jenkins, that Jet defense should still be good enough to handle Oakland. The Jets' passing offense had been struggling even before last week's stinkbomb against the Bills. Oakland's defense only seems to give up big games to high powered offenses that can go deep, which the Jets really can't do.


Washington is just really really bad and the Eagles have a good history of bouncing back from embarrassing games. Philly always mails in some random away game every year, but it rarely signals that the wheels have come off. If Philly was playing any other team that was last in their division, this line would be 10 or higher. Yet Washington really is no better than any one of those other cellar dwellers.

Extra Pick #1
Over in 4th quarter as long as it's under 14.
Minn and Pitt have both given up an average of more than 10 points each in the fourth quarter of their games this season. Add that to the fact that both Favre and Roethlisberger are known for fourth quarter comebacks, they could easily score 2 touchdowns in the last 3 minutes alone.

Extra Pick #2
There are many paired and hedged trading strategies, so why not use those strategies on football picks?
Both NOS-6.5 and Over 47.5
We know that the Saints can and will score, as long as they have to. It seems significantly less likely that Miami will cover or win by shutting down that offense. Rather, if they make it close, it'll be from putting up a lot of points on their own, which they've been able to do when at home. I think the chances of winning both is significantly higher than the chances of losing both plus the juice on a push.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Character Episode (tv, entertainment)

I think that every good tv show has the character episode some time in the first season. I think it is the single most important episode for every tv show. The character episode is the episode that opens up and truly begins the development of a special character on the show. Usually this is done through a previously undisclosed history. This is the episode where they sell the character of interest to the audience. This is what develops into a true following and separates the show from others out there. Even if the show is episodic in nature, like a sitcom or a monster/case of the week type of show, there needs to be an overall arc in the development of the character and this, in my opinion, is what makes or breaks a show.

Some recent episodes of this nature that I remember from my favorite shows include:

Three Stories (House Season 1 Ep 21)

As much as people like the medical mysteries, I think the majority of people tune in for the character interaction and most of all for Hugh Laurie's portrayal of Greg House. Not only was the story-telling great in this episode, but this is when you found out how House came to be. This episode actually won a writing Emmy, and is one of the episodes of House that I never tire of rewatching. Then again, if you didn't like this episode, I doubt you would have continued on with the series.

Game Night (How I Met Your Mother Season 1 Ep 15)

Another example of great story-telling, this time the viewer was given the backstory of how Barney Stinson came to be. Even with a talented ensemble cast, the character that always stood out was Barney and this episode allowed the viewer to connect with him and his story, and not just treat him as the wacky comic relief that spat out crazy theories. While NPH was fun in Harold and Kumar, this was the show that really brought him into the national spotlight (would you say again? I mean, we all remember Doogie Howser, right?) and led to him hosting the Tonys and the Emmys.

College (The Sopranos Season 1 Ep 5)

The Sopranos was a revolutionary show, and this was probably the most memorable episode from that spectacular first season (it was for me). This episode did not look to the past like the ones listed above, but rather looked to the future as Tony drove Meadow to college interviews. The episode was the one that really opened up Tony as both the loving father and the future mob boss and set the tone for what the show was really about: Tony being at the center of both those families and how he deals with it.

I'm sure there are many more and would welcome any additions in the comments. Also, my favorite show in the fall season so far has been Castle. The actors have good chemistry, the case of the week usually has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing for a while, and it's very light and the perfect dramedy, a name that I haven't really used to classify a show since Boston Legal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Couple of NFL Thoughts (sport, gambling)

A few things caught my eye today.

First of all, I was watching the Giants-Saints game, and there was a play where the Saints caused an Eli fumble and recovered. When the Saints player with the ball hit the ground, the ball came out. The interesting thing to me about this play was that even though the ruling was that the Saints player was down by contact, the play was allowed to continue and no whistle was blown until the Giants recovered the loose ball in the endzone. The head official who had the call? Ed Hochuli. Once bitten, twice shy.

The New England Patriots were up 45-0 at the half, and the halftime line was Pats-2.5, meaning that they were expected to add to their lead. Of course they did, with Tom Brady coming out in the second half for one more touchdown drive before he was taken out and the game ended 59-0. The line is difficult to set with such a big lead not only because of the third-fourth string players you expect to be playing, but also because of the different conditions. For example, you could easily expect that New England might kick field goals in the first half of the third quarter, but Tennessee will pretty much be going for it on every 4th down in Patriot territory.

The concensus number on the Philly at Oakland game reached almost 80% for Philly, meaning that almost 80% of the bets for the game were bet on Philly. Usually they say that when the public is over 70% on one team is when one should be careful. Of course I was an idiot and followed the crowd into a miserable, miserable, Philly loss. One of the stories going in was that McNabb was going to pull JaMarcus Russell aside before the game and give him some advice on dealing with booing fans and other pressures. Guess he probably should have waited until after the game.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

NFL Week 6 (sport, gambling)

Indy saved last week from being horrible, especially since I pounded Indy full game, first half, and second half in an effort to try to recover from the earlier damage. With gambling, as in trading, you have to keep yourself in the game so that you can pounce when something sets up perfectly. On to this week's picks.

Over 46

I swear this line was at 44.5 when I looked at it this morning. Either way, I've been saying for a while now that Baltimore is no longer a defensive team where Flacco just has to manage the game. They will come out to score on offense, and Minnesota definitely has no trouble scoring.


The Patriots have had a tremendous record coming off a loss in the Belichick era. Tennessee, which has already been very bad all year, now has more injuries to deal with. The secondary is still horrific, and even if Brady's accuracy is way off, you give him enough chances and he will hurt you sooner or later.


The amount of love the Chargers have gotten in the media so far this week has been staggering. Yet I still think the Broncos are the real deal, and just the coaching matchup alone should be worth 3 points. I just think that this game will at worst come down to a final drive, and getting 3.5 points is a lot if that's the case.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NFL Week 5 (sport, gambling)

Didn't win by much, but all three picks last week did come in, so let me see if I can get a streak going.

Under 40.5

That 49er defense is good, but I doubt they'll be able to score 3 touchdowns again. That being said, the 49er offense still isn't that good, and I expect this to be a slow-paced, tough, football game with lots of running plays from both teams.

Over 50

The line on this started at 48, and is already up to 50. With huge passing games and big playmakers on both sides, this rates to be a shootout.


At this point we just have to admit that Tennessee is not a good team. Their secondary is horrible, and it won't get any easier against Peyton Manning. While the Colts defense is still much better against the air than the ground (think about their ARZ and MIA results), I just don't think the Titans have enough firepower to keep up.

Asian food in Manhattan (food, MomVisit09)

This entry officially concludes the chronicling of the food we ate during my mom's visit to NYC. It was a fun, gluttonous, month, and I enjoyed writing about it as well. For those who read this blog specifically for the food trip posts, I thank you for your visits. I will continue to write about upcoming food experiences, though probably not with the frequency of when my mother was visiting.

I've written about Num Pang before, but the sandwiches are just so good that I actually went out into the city and brought them home for my mom to try on a Sunday when I wanted to stay at home and sweat the NFL games. Pretty much every selection on their menu is good, but our favorites, which happen to also be the favorites of my coworkers who eat them frequently, were the steak sandwich and the mackerel sandwich. Each sandwich comes with cucumber, cilantro, carrots, and chili mayo, but it's the nice marinade on the main ingredient and the fact that it's grilled to order that makes the sandwiches stand out. They are not cheap, but for the quality of the main ingredient, I wouldn't call them expensive either. They may not look as big as a banh mi, but they are really filling.

The skirt steak sandwich, always grilled to a perfect medium rare.

The mackerel sandwich, which was originally spanish mackerel, but is now king mackerel.

We also took the time on her last day here to go have some dimsum. I say dimsum and not yumcha because we did not in fact drink any tea. I took her to Chinatown Brasserie, a place that is very hard to justify for most of my friends here from Hong Kong. Who wants to pay $6 for four pieces of turnip cake when they can go two more stops on the subway to chinatown and get it for a lot lot less? By way of comparison, I would say that the prices at Chinatown Brasserie would be comparable to having dimsum at a top-tier Hong Kong hotel. That's not even including the fact that you'd be expected to tip more here than in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, for the higher price there is a higher quality of food, and probably better than any other place in NYC.

The aforementioned turnip cakes, with scallions and XO sauce. Details matter. The turnip cakes were crispily fried on BOTH sides, and did not have any sense of being oily at all. My mom, who makes a wonderful XO sauce herself, thought the XO sauce here had a good amount of quality ingredients and liked how it was also not oily at all.

Clockwise from bottom right. The basic shrimp dumpling, or har gau, was really good. The skin was thin and not gummy at all, and while petite, the filling was full of shrimp and no added filler. The watercress and shrimp dumplings were also good. The snow pea leaf dumplings are described below, while the shrimp and scallop dumpling in the upper right was mediocre.

Pan fried lamb dumplings were pretty good. Again, well fried without being oily, the filling had real lamb meat with some bite, not just random minced meat.

The snow pea leaf dumplings from above. Aren't they cute with the little eyes dotted on them? These were really good too.

We also ordered the Young Chow fried rice, which came in at an exorbitant $16. Traditionally, a Cantonese style Young Chow (or Yeung Chau) fried rice has staple ingredients of char siu (bbq pork) and egg, while shrimp is often added as well. This one had wolfberries and scallops in addition to that and it just seemed like an odd mix. Almost as if they were throwing in ingredients to justify the price. The fried rice itself was decent, but not spectacular. I would still recommend Chinatown Brasserie for an occasional outing, but stick with the dim sum. Also, if you happen to not know a lick of Chinese and would be clearly lost in the hustle and bustle of eating dimsum in Chinatown, this place does have a nicer, calmer, atmosphere.

Harbor cruise (entertainment, MomVisit09)

While we didn't want to go with the big crowds, we did want to do one touristy thing so we went on the harbor cruise off the battery. Due to the slow subway and a little misunderstanding, we were a little late for our scheduled departure but they were nice enough to wait for my mother once I sped over and got there. It's actually a pretty good deal. For $12 you get a 1 hour boat ride around the harbor, with the boat playing a recorded audio guide, and you get pretty close to the statue of liberty.

A good look at some of the bridges.

Even down at the very tip of Manhattan the skyline and architecture is still pretty impressive.

We also came pretty close to the nearby places such as Governor's Island.

Of course, a couple pictures of the statue of liberty.

The crowds actually on Liberty and Ellis islands were huge, and I thought this was a pretty good alternative to that. Cheaper, more relaxed, but there were still many good photo ops.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Twilight Zone (entertainment)

I've always been a fan of The Twilight Zone (the original) and last Friday actually marked the 50th anniversary of the show's debut on CBS. I even bought the whole entire series on DVD. From the sci-fi possibilities to the twist endings to the sentimental and touching stories, this series had everything, including terrific writing and terrific acting.

While I remember watching the Twilight Zone marathons that would run on Independence Day weekend as a kid, it's better having all the episodes because there were just so many good ones. It's almost impossible to come up with a list of only 10 favorite/best/most memorable episodes. I still enjoy the original twist endings, always keeping in mind that this series was written over 50 years ago.

Besides being entertaining, the series also made you think, with some episodes being allegories of social issues and fears at the time, such as the war and nuclear apocalypse. I think that if you took the best shows of the series, you'd have a list with quality and quantity that would rival any of the best tv shows ever.

If anyone wants to borrow a season or two, let me know. Otherwise, you can catch a few episodes on CBS's website.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pascal Barbot at Ko Part 3 (food, MomVisit09)

Finally got the last of the pics off the phone camera, so here's the final installment of Pascal Barbot at Ko. We'd finished the savory courses, and while I'm normally not big on dessert courses, we were excited to see what he would come up with. It was nice to see the named chef in charge of desserts rather than a separate pastry chef.

The first sweet course involved this dish with vanilla ice cream in the middle in a moat of something that chef Barbot sprayed out of a whipped cream/foam canister. He asked us to guess what it was. Whatever it was, it went really well with the vanilla ice cream. The room temperature mystery puddle was a little grittier than foam or whipped cream, and it melded with the ice cream terrifically across flavor, temperature, and texture. When we were finished and noone offered him an answer, he came back with a mischievous smile and sprayed some more of it for us to try. Oh wait... that's, no, that's.... mashed potato? Yes, whipped/foamed mashed potato and ice cream. Wow.

Next came a vibrant lemongrass chili sorbet. The lemongrass flavor was nice and clean and the chili kick at the end really brought it up a notch for me.

On the plate was some praline with chocolate thing while the bowl contained a fromage blanc sorbet with a black sesame puree. Again, he manages to take something that can easily be overpowering (black sesame) and keep it in balance with the rest of the dish.

A vacherin (meringue crust) filled with honey ice cream was simple and tasty.

The final course was a jasmine eggnog served in an eggshell and honey chestnut madeleines. Also tasty, but the best part of this course was watching chef Barbot and chef Serpico jump up and down to check on the madeleines as they couldn't see directly into the mounted oven.

A final picture of some of our chefs for the evening. On the left is Barbot's sous chef Daniel who was the only guy who flew here from Paris with him. Next is the honored chef of the evening, chef Pascal Barbot. In the middle is Peter Serpico, chef de cuisine and partner at Momofuku Ko. The big fella next to him is David Chang. I didn't get the name of the chef on the right, one of a surprisingly large number of chefs from the Momofuku brigade who helped out that night.

Chef Pascal Barbot by himself. Conversing with him throughout the night (in English), I learned that he had arrived the day before and would be leaving the day after. That's pretty amazing that he came only to cook that night. I asked him where he ate the night before and he said WD-50, a place that I still haven't been yet. I also asked him whether they cook more with geese or duck in Paris, because I prefer geese, but can't seem to really find it in the US. He said that geese is more readily available in the winter season, but that otherwise they tend to serve duck throughout the year.

An action shot of the chefs at work that night. For those who've never been, this pretty much is what Momofuku Ko looks like. A counter with a not very deep kitchen behind it, though I think there's more to the kitchen in the back. The guy in the black shirt in the background is chef Humm of Eleven Madison Park, talking with his general manager Will. I remembered having read about chef Humm's food back at Campton Place in San Francisco, so I asked him why his food at EMP didn't seem as whimsical or radical. He told me that as a young chef, you often have to push the envelope on creativity to get noticed, even though it may be further than the food you really want to cook.

Once again, it was a wonderful evening and a great experience. I want to take the opportunity here to thank all the staff for helping make that night what it was.

I don't seem to have any notes on the wine pairings, but they were all really nice and I have pictures of the bottles below:

For Part 1, click here
For Part 2, click here

Lobster Salad (food, MomVisit09)

Even though my mom is a great cook, I wanted her to just enjoy her vacation and not cook. However, she did make her lobster salad. First things first. This is not salad in the way that most Westerners think of salad. Traditionally, Chinese people did not eat raw vegetables. I think the explanation was that manure was the main fertilizer and it was just deemed too dirty to eat raw vegetables, even if washed. So if you go to an old-school restaurant, even in Hong Kong, salad will typically refer to fruit salad, often with a Miracle Whip type of salad dressing. My mom's lobster salad also uses Miracle Whip, but contains both fruit and vegetables. Miracle Whip is salad dressing, not mayonnaise, and should not be compared to mayonnaise.

First, the lobster. We bought them at Pacific Chinese supermarket right off the 74th street Roosevelt Ave stop for $4.99/lb. These 4 lobsters cost about $28. I think there's a supermarket about 10 blocks away that's even cheaper, but we didn't want to walk the extra distance.

Here's what they looked like cooked. All the meat is then removed and given a rough chop/dice.

The other ingredients include diced celery, cucumber, and apple. The dressing is made with a combination of Miracle Whip and worcestershire sauce.

Also in the salad are diced ham and diced hard-boiled egg whites.

Add some pepper for seasoning and mix it all together. Visually, this is more like a potato or chicken salad type of salad, but even then the tastes and textures are very different. It won't last very long in the fridge, but that wasn't a problem as it tasted so good that it was all gone fairly quickly.

Asian food in Queens (food, MomVisit09)

Even though I live closer to Manhattan than the rest of Queens, I'm still right on the 7 train so we went further into Queens for some well-known asian food hotspots.


I rarely go into Flushing because it's a bit far and I'm don't like really big crowds. My mom wanted to go and buy some American ginseng as souvenirs so I did some research on some of the quick, cheap eats we should get there. First off the 7 train we went to the little corner stall that sold the peking duck buns. For $1, you get a warm bun filled with a couple slices of duck and decently crisp skin with hoisin sauce. Good value. Next, we went to the Mongolian skewer cart. This is very different from the meat skewers they serve at the hot dog carts. For $1, you get a stick of well-seasoned, flavorful, and tender lamb, beef, or chicken, though we only tried the lamb. The meat chunks don't look big at all, but it's quite filling because of the good mix of fat and meat. We even bought a few sticks to take home and they were still remarkably tender (especially the fat) even when they weren't hot off the grill.

We then went to the food court of the Golden Shopping Mall. Starting off at the Xi'an Famous Snacks stall downstairs, we had the lamb burger and the liang pi. The lamb burger was ok, but the liang pi was really really good. Liang pi is a mix of cold wide noodles with cold wheat gluten mixed with cilantro, bean sprouts, dried tofu, and an amazing sauce made of vinegar and chili oil. Next we went upstairs and shared a large bowl of lamb noodle soup. The soup was fragrant and clean and is meant to be good for you. The lamb was tender, but the star was the very wide and very dense perfectly cooked hand pulled noodles.


We also went to the famous Thai restaurant in Woodside that's been a favorite of New Yorkers for a long time. In fact, I think its status is getting close to the Peter Luger or Difara Pizza level. We ordered the crispy Chinese watercress salad with shrimp, squid, and chicken. There was the usual great mix of flavors, but it was a little salty that night. We also got the drunken noodles and tom yum soup which were great as usual. The BBQ pork tenders are a favorite of mine, as I can't seem to find other Thai places in NYC that have these tenders, the meat of which should originate from around the pig neck area. We finished with a garlic and pepper fried whole red snapper, which was ok but dry.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

NFL Week 4 (sport, gambling)

Not a good start to the season at all. Baltimore did their part last week (although McGahee lost a fumble in the red zone), but Cleveland only managed 3 points. At this point, I'm going to stop writing these if I post more losing picks, unless I go 0-3 this week and then I'll continue to write these so you all can fade them. Good luck.

Over 45

Baltimore is still the highest scoring offense behind the Saints and the NE defense isn't anything special. NE will score, unlike the Browns, and with Baltimore's league-leading run defense, NE might really open up that offense for the first time this season.

Under 37

Washington could barely score against the Detroit defense last week and Tampa couldn't score at all last week.

Under 37

The Rams showed a little more sign of life with Boller, but I wouldn't get too carried away. The 49ers have actually averaged LESS yards per game than St Louis. Really.

American Food (food, MomVisit09)

We didn't just go out to eat at expensive restaurants every night. We also had some good ol' American food. So what's American food? Because America is made of so many different cultures and climates, it is hard to define. Some believe it to be hamburgers and hot dogs and other fast food. A case has been made that Chinese food (or rather Americanized Chinese food) is American food because of its prevalence. One other definition of American food that I read about was barbecue and this makes the most sense to me.

Here is my reasoning. Some form of barbecue exists all over the US. While barbecue has many regional variants within the US, they all share many common basic elements. Most barbecue practitioners use cooking apparatus that is unique to American barbecue, as opposed to South American or Australian variants. Also, indigenous ingredients and flavorings (such as specific wood types for smoking) are used as opposed to imported items. And for some people, hamburgers and hot dogs also fall into the barbecue category.

I wanted to take her to both Hill Country and RUB to experience two different types of barbecue, but we only had time to go to RUB.

The ribs were a little dry, but I could definitely taste the flavor in the meat. It's very different from those ribs at Applebees or some such where all you taste is basically the sauce.

When you go to RUB BBQ, you have to get the burnt ends. Not up for debate. We really enjoyed this delicious plate of tender, fatty, well-charred, and well-seasoned brisket. For accompanying sides we chose greens and potato salad. This was my mom's first experience with Southern style greens and we were trying to figure out what kind of vegetables they were comparable with in Chinese cuisine. We decided that it was the type of vegetable used to make the preserved vegetable, mui choy (梅菜), which essentially are mustard greens. I still can't really tell the difference between mustard and collard greens, but I like both.

We did also have hot dogs and burgers. She's had her share of dirty water hot dogs over the years, so I decided to bring home some Gray's Papaya. We found the dogs somewhat salty, but I am still a big fan of the snap on their casing.

While there are many great burgers in NYC and I enjoy both the black label burger at Minetta Tavern and the simpler and cheaper burger at Donovan's in Woodside, I thought it would be a unique NYC experience to wait in a ridiculously long line for a Shake Shack burger. We only waited 10 minutes or so in line, and my mom really enjoyed the burger. She wasn't as excited about the red velvet frozen custard, which I love and ate three times last month.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dinner at Marea (food, MomVisit09)

For our final big expensive restaurant meal, we went to Marea. I wrote about Marea before, but this time there are pictures! Even though I've only been here twice, this is my favorite New York Times 3 star restaurant. I remember a while back when Bruni was about to retire that there was speculation of Marea being his 4 star swansong (which went to the very deserving Eleven Madison Park). Even though I love the food at Marea, I just don't think it's designed to be a 4 star restaurant. The service is very good, the decor is elegant, the food is wonderful, and the prices are expensive but not ridiculous. So what's wrong? I just don't see it as a real "destination dining" place. The food is wonderful, but more towards simple rather than complex. There is a prix fixe or a la carte option, but no grand tasting menu like at all the other 4 star places. Perhaps with time or dedication it will achieve that aura of a 4 star restaurant, but then again I don't think that that's what they're striving for. As for the meal itself, we both had the four course prix fixe and added a few items.

Amuse. House cured salmon with melon broth. The salmon was tasty and the melon broth was very refreshing. A terrific combination.

An added item to share. Crostini topped with sea urchin, a thin layer of lardo, and sea salt. It was tasty and heavy just like last time. This time, however, I asked for a wedge of lemon and tried squeezing some lemon juice on top. I thought this was even better in bringing out the flavors and gave it a less heavy feel at the same time.

Marlin crudo with caviar and cream chosen as first course of the prix fixe. This tasted better than the last time I had it. I don't know why, but it just all came together really well for me this time.

Added crudo course. Pacific jack mackerel with eggplant caponata and cucumber on the bottom. The fish was wonderful and had less of that strong fish taste that I usually associate with the mackerel family. The flesh had a terrific firm yet melty texture. The eggplant caponata wasn't bad, I just found it unnecessary.

Lobster with creamy burrata (a cheese made from mozarella and cream). Unfortunately, the lobster-filled squid I had last time was no longer on the menu, so I chose this. This was very good, with the well-cooked lobster's sweetness going well with the light creamy cheese.

For the pasta course, this tagliatelle with king crab was just newly put on the menu. It was fresh, sweet, and light, though very simple.

Also for the pasta course, I had the lobster ravioli with mushroom and asparagus. This was still very good, but perhaps because I had a lot more lobster and crab already than last time, it didn't wow me as much. The sauce was also a little oilier than I remember.

Added an extra pasta course of the signature fusilli with red wine braised octopus and bone marrow. The picture above is of a half-portion of the a la carte selection. It's really tasty and hearty. The fusilli is so dense that my mom likened it to cavatelli, a pasta which we both love.

For our main courses, first is the seafood soup that I ordered last time I was here. The large selection of seafood is cooked separately from the soup, and all cooked perfectly. There was more broth this time and it was even better than I remembered it. I could taste many of the different components, from prawns to scallops to clams and more. The only thing I didn't like was the presence of a few little tapioca balls. I don't like that texture and don't really know what its purpose in the soup was.

My main course was the branzino with pancetta and brussel sprouts. The branzino was perfectly cooked and had amazing flavor. A beautiful fish flavor that just pops into your mouth. Unlike any other seabass that I've had before. It didn't really need anything else, and the pancetta and brussel sprouts were ok.

For dessert, my mom had the affogato with zabaglione gelato.

I had the torrone (almond nougat) gelato with cocoa cake and sour cherry compote. I loved the flavors, but didn't like the texture of the thin piece of cocoa cake.

While I repeated many of the same dishes from my last visit, everything was just so good. Most of the dishes I would classify as solid rather than spectacular, but the branzino was truly a revelation. The total for two including t/t was 315 because we added courses and had supplements to the prix fixe.

On our way out the hostess gave us one of these, a dense cupcake with lemon sprinkles that was really good when I took it out of the fridge the next day.