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It’s hard to believe that it has been two years since I sat in JFK waiting to board my Korean Air flight to Seoul. Looking back at my first blog post from Korea, I’m floored that my first blog post wasn’t about the bright lights or weird smells, but about the movies I watched on the flight over. Really, Melissa? You’ve flown halfway around the world and you’re blogging about the Sex and the City movie?

I find myself thinking about my time in Asia a lot these days. Most of my friends have left Korea and continued traveling or taken new jobs abroad. A handful of friends and coworkers are still there, but they’ve moved on with their lives, as have Erin and I. We’ve finally joined the workforce, a world that just two years ago seemed more strange and foreign than an English camp on the other side of the globe.

Taking time to live and travel in a new part of the world wasn’t the conventional way of doing things, and it certainly wasn’t the path that my family wanted me to take. But in the end, things worked themselves out. I saved money and gained a year of hardcore life experience, used said money to travel to nearly a dozen countries and gain even more hardcore life experience, and made the executive decision to move to Washington over the summer — a decision I haven’t once regretted. I have friends who jumped into careers straight after graduation and now, a year or two or three down the line, wish they’d taken some time to do something random and unpredictable.

So, Korea. I miss the bright lights and the weird ads and the crazy superstitions (fan death, anyone?). I miss the spicy food, the sweet treats from the local ho dduk lady and even the pungent, nauseating smell of the seafood restaurant down the street from SEV. I miss the well-behaved kids (especially after yesterday’s Metro ride from hell, courtesy of two dozen students from Woodrow Wilson high school), going out for Indian food with Korean coworkers and sitting down for a nice Shabbat meal at Chabad.

Kindy Hair Salon class. I still can't believe I got paid to do this.

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Dear Founding Farmers,

I really wanted to like you. Like, really really. My friends love you, Yelpers rave about you and your restaurant has a really cool mission. Last week, when a co-worker mentioned she was going to brunch there with her husband, I thought, ‘Hey, why haven’t I been there yet?’ So I rounded up five friends for Sunday brunch. Brunch is, after all, the most important meal of the day (except for maybe dessert).

We followed the hostess up the stairs, giddy and hungry. We were seated in a circular booth in the middle of the room just before 2 p.m. Did you know that you stop serving brunch at 2? Because I didn’t. Want to know why? Because it isn’t posted anywhere on your website, and it’s not entirely crazy to think that a restaurant would serve Sunday brunch until mid-afternoon.

So we had eight minutes to skim the brunch menu. Not a problem though, because a couple of us had already read through the menu online. (Yes, we were that excited.) We quickly placed our orders, happy to get them in before the metaphorical brunch clock struck midnight (or in this case, 2).

We ordered the doughnuts, a recommendation from my co-worker. They were delicious, just so you know. But the menu said they came with a pot of coffee or hot chocolate, and no such pot was ever brought to the table.

A short while later, our food began to come out. Slowly but surely, bits and pieces of our meals came out every couple of minutes until it was mostly all there. Now, when I say mostly, I should probably tell you about my friend Matt’s order, the fried chicken, eggs and waffles, which came out about half an hour after the rest of our meals. No fewer than three people came out over the course of the half hour to apologize for the mistake, but seriously? I mean, how long does it take a professional kitchen to whip up a breakfast order of chicken and waffles? I mean, unless you had to go out to your “modern farmhouse,” slaughter the animal yourself and pluck the thing before bringing it back to make Matt’s breakfast. Then I get how it could take nearly an hour to get the meal out.

My friend Josh ordered eggs benedict. I’m not one for eggs benedict, but his plate looked really good. He asked for a little bit more hollandaise sauce and was instead brought mustard, which definitely didn’t go with his meal. When someone from the kitchen came out to apologize for Matt’s MIA chicken and waffles, Josh asked again about the hollandaise. “Oh, I’m sorry, we’re all out of it.” That’s legit. I mean, we came at the end of brunch hour, and these things happen. But ya shoulda just said that in the first place instead of bringing out spicy mustard and hoping he wouldn’t notice the difference.

But wait, there’s more! Two of us ordered the pastrami hash. I’m a Jewish girl from New York — I do not turn down pastrami. Ever. Especially if it comes with potatoes and eggs. I mean, hello, yum. I was really looking forward to the hash: “Pan Roasted Shredded Leek Hash Browns, Poached Eggs, Beef Pastrami and Tangy Creole Mustard Hollandaise.” But, wouldn’t you know it? No mustard hollandaise on my hash. No big deal, your manager was very polite and quickly brought me a cup of it when she came around to apologize again for Matt’s missing meal. I’ll be honest: The hash rocked. It was really good, even without the mustard hollandaise. In fact, it was so good that I ate nearly all of it without noticing this:

Is that? Oh yes, yes it is. That’s a giant piece of eggshell. Having taught a cooking class to elementary school kids for a year, I’ve cracked a lot of eggs in my day. Never had any eggshell issues, though. I mentioned the eggshell to our waiter, who barely acknowledged me and still charged me full price for my hollandaise-less, eggshelled hash. I mean, really? I waitressed in college and I’m usually a pretty understanding girl, so like, really?

We left shortly thereafter, surprised at the service and disappointed by you as a whole. Between the missing coffee, the case of the missing chicken and waffles (which in the end was comped — which Matt appreciated), the late-to-the-party hollandaise and the definitely-not-invited eggshell, we were let down.

We had a back and forth yesterday on Twitter, which I appreciated:

I don’t know what happens now. Usually, when I’m sad or upset or hurt, writing e-mails helps. So Founding Farmers: I’m sorry, but I’m just not that into you anymore. I’m glad that other friends have had positive experiences, but right now I’m on the side of the naysayers, which is sad, because the food that we did get was so damn tasty.

Sincerely,

Melissa

If I had to list a few of my favorite things that begin with the letter C, the list would be as follows: champagne, chocolate cake, cats. Oh, and Chadwick’s. It’s pretty tough not to love a place with an excellent brunch and bottomless champagne. With Matt in town this weekend, we decided to indulge.

I haven’t been to Chadwick’s since April, which is a travesty, considering how freaking good that place is. On my last trip there I opted for the breakfast burrito; this time I went with huevos rancheros (and Maya Angelou). Are we seeing a trend of Latin food for brunch? Rach got scrambled eggs and Matt went for steak and eggs. Between our constant champagne refills, the large table of Georgetown students behind us and the 30th birthday brunch going on across the room, the staff had their hands full. Our favorite waiter shotgunned a flute of champagne and had everyone in the room cheering for him. As people left, waves and goodbyes were exchanged between tables, between strangers. It was…weird. And good. Weird and good, like a bizarre family reunion. Chadwick’s, you get an A+ for atmosphere.

I didn’t manage to get any photos of my meal. That’s how hungry I was.

The bottom line on Chadwick’s: the staff was great, the food was excellent, the champagne was free-flowing. Washington has a ton of brunch options, but this place really takes the (chocolate) cake. Mid-way through brunch, Matt announced that Chadwick’s was his favorite brunch spot, and I’ve got to agree. The only thing that came close to a letdown was the chocolate cake we finished with. Moist, chocolately, but with a hint of cherry. Melissa = very particular with her cherries. Keep them away from my chocolate cake, please. Everything else was phenomenal, and we walked out fuzzy and happy.

From Georgetown, we hopped over to Dupont’s 17th Street Festival for an afternoon with local artists, vendors and performers.

And the award for best business name goes to…

Erin got there later in the day and blogged about drag queens, but I saw neither her nor them because I was too busy playing with kittens in the Pet Zone.

I picked up a picture frame, a business card from TD Bank (because as I’ve made very clear on Twitter, I am so over Bank of America) and chatted with Alezandra Russell, founder of the Recycled Children Project. Check out the site if you have a chance — human trafficking as a whole is a huge issue in southeast Asia, one that the average tourist either doesn’t see or doesn’t realize they’re seeing. RCP focuses its efforts on child exploitation victims in Chiang Mai, Thailand and strives to raise awareness and work to offer alternative opportunities to the Thai sex trade. For more information on human trafficking, I steer you over to my roommate Maia’s Change.org blog.

I left the festival in high spirits and with a few fuzzies left over from brunch. Since joining the rest of you in this 9-5 thing, I’ve learned that weekends are sacred and that I should make the most of them. Now, we’re nearing 8 a.m. on Monday morning. I’m fresh out of the shower and not yet to the point of forming actual sentences when I talk out loud. I’m ready for my last week of work, for a trip to a yet-to-be-decided location and for everything that October is going to bring. I’m ready for it all. Bring it, Monday.

For those of you fasting, I hope you had an easy fast. Currently stuffed full of bagels, lox and three different kinds of kugel. I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year. Except for you, chicken. You’re about to have your neck sliced open and that boy’s sins drained from your body. Sorry.

Via odditycentral.com

Today? Not a win. Not a loss, but not a win. I woke up feeling good. It was gonna be one of those days, ya know? I was fresh off a trip home and ready to tackle the week ahead. I knew it was going to be a good day when I walked into the Starbucks across the street from my apartment and didn’t have to wait in line to order my grande chai latte. (It’s sad that the closest thing to Indian chai — I mean the real stuff, the stuff you drink hot even though it’s 120 degrees outside — is Starbucks. Tried the chai at Tryst a couple months ago and it just didn’t compare. Chain coffee shops: 1, Cute artsy cafes: 0)

Work? Work wasn’t bad. Powered through the morning with no glaring problems. Ah, but lunchtime. That’s when everything goes wrong, doesn’t it? I should have known when there was no e-mail with the day’s lunch specials in my inbox. That should have been a sign. But no, I didn’t realize things were about to get much worse than not knowing that the soup of the day was cream of broccoli.

A few text messages and a couple e-mails later and the day was shot to hell. The rest of the afternoon was, for lack of a more illustrative word, a disappointment. Disappointment seems to be the key phrase of the day, and there’s been plenty of it — in other people, mainly, but also in myself. I’ve allowed my hopes for other people to cloud reality, and wishing people to be anything but who they really are has affected the way I approach my relationships.

But from rock bottom (oh, I might be a bit melodramatic here), you can only go up. I got off a Metro stop early and walked the mile down to my apartment, running into a friend along the way. I played a song that I’ve played over and over on my iPod whenever I was in need of a musical pep talk. It’s a Korean pop song, and it wasn’t even that popular when I lived there. But I saw the group, FT Island, perform it at a concert last summer and it’s been my go-to pick-me-up ever since. And no, because you might be wondering, I don’t know most of what they’re saying. But the song is called “I Hope,” and that’s enough of a reason for me to like it. (Also because it’s part That Thing You Do, part Back to the Future.)

The day got a little better from there. There were conversations with roommates, some wine, the season premiere of “Gossip Girl” and a few phone calls with good friends. Sitting on the balcony, sipping wine from the only unbroken glass in the apartment, talking and listening and listening and talking — that was what was needed to bring the day from a lose to a draw.

So where do we go from here? We hope that tomorrow is better than today, and that the day after that is even better. We hope for the best in people, and understand that sometimes we’ll be let down. We hope to find that perfect cup of chai, but know that not even Starbucks will beat watching that thin layer of milkfat form on the top and pushing it aside to enjoy the steaming warm sweetness on an already blistering-hot day. We hope that we can be better listeners and better friends and that the lessons we take from today will help us in our relationships tomorrow.

That’s what we hope. Or at least, that’s what I hope. That is, when I’m not busy hoping to be the token white lady in a Korean music video (which happens far more often than you might imagine).

All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I hear ya, FDR. My trip home was too short. Any longer, and I’m sure I’d be complaining that it was too long. But this quick jaunt upstate was just what I needed. Fresh air, mountain views and my mother’s home cooking…seriously, what could be better?

Yesterday morning, before heading down to Poughkeepsie for lunch with my grandmother, my mother and I hit up the Kingston Farmer’s Market. I haven’t been to the market in nearly a year, so it was nice to see new stalls and a few familiar old ones.

Chocolate- and fruit-filled and tarts at my family's fave, the Dutch Desserts table.

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With #wherewereyou trending right now on Twitter, it’s fitting to ask that of ourselves. I was in Mr. Sullivan’s 10th grade world history class. After second period, we all just went through the motions of the day — walking to class, taking attendance, asking to use the restroom. We didn’t know then all we know now. We didn’t know how our lives would change. We didn’t know how the world would change.

I don’t need to go on and on like I did last year. I just want to pose the question that has been asked and answered all over Twitter: Where were you?

I was going to post one of the dozens of photo montages set to Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” but it felt wrong. Instead, I’ll give you a video of him live in concert, because today we don’t need to look back. We need to look forward.

That’s how coming back to New York feels. It was business as usual all day at work in Rockville. After work, Metro back into the District. Then the walk from the Metro to my apartment, from the door to the kitchen and the kitchen to the balcony to watch planes take off into the sunset (and yes, that sounds corny as hell, but I swear that’s what we do every evening).

From apartment to Metro to airport. That’s where the transition begins. Eric, a friend from college had a delayed flight to Chicago, so we met up and entertained each other while wondering when Eric’s 7:35 flight would leave (ended up being around 9). On my almost-empty DCA-ALB flight: a magician, a child who kept claiming to be a Mexican jumping bean and my seatmate, a woman from Las Vegas who had undoubtedly spent a bit of time at the terminal bar during the last layover.

Eric hard at work at DCA.

The Albany airport, the baggage claim, waiting for my dad at the curb. The hour-long drive home, figuring out plans for the next few days, secretly praying we don’t crash as my dad swerves back and forth between lanes. (And I quote: “There was nobody else around, so I figured ‘What the hell?'”)

We exit at Saugerties and drive the dark, windy roads to Sawkill. Or Ruby. Or Ulster. Or Kingston. Even after 23 years, still not entirely sure where I live. Technically all of the above?

Home, into the house, hugs from my mother. I’ve only lived in Washington for three months, but for some reason, they now seem longer than the five months I lived in Prague or the 14 months I was in Asia.

Leftovers from Rosh Hashana dinner make their way into my stomach: matzah ball soup, salmon, turkey, quinoa (and we debate how to pronounce it constantly), and to throw some Italian into the mix, zucchini lasagna. Then, migration to the deck. I look up and there are stars. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. They blanket the sky and I make a comment about how many there are. My mother looks up and tells me the night, with its partial cloudiness, is not a good night for stars. But that’s why I have three more nights here.

I fell into bed, exhausted after a full day of work…followed by travel…followed by lots of turkey. I’m ready to take on this new year with its surprises and lessons and whatever it wants to throw at me. I’m ready for the new apartment. I’m ready for new adventures. But first, I’m going to enjoy a few days at home with my family. I’ve slipped out of my DC world, with its 40-hour workweek, constant overstimulization and full schedule of happy hours and dinners. Now I’m in upstate mode — driving my car around town, making plans to meet at a local brewery for mason jar night and hanging out on the deck. When I’m in one, the other seems like something out of a different life.

When I was getting ready for work Wednesday morning, I stood on the balcony as I brushed my teeth and watched the people below head to work. I thought about how happy I am in Washington, how settled and content I am and how I didn’t think that would ever be a reality. And right now, I’m just as happy to be in Kingston, though I know that’s a short-lived feeling. The six months I lived here when I moved back from Korea were good, but after awhile I stopped being happy. The move to Washington was good and healthy because it gave me the best of both worlds. My goal for the next year is to learn how to combine the two so that it feels less like slipping between two worlds and more like joining them together. With that, I wish you a shanah tovah, a happy new year, and head to synagogue.

Now that Labor Day is over, it’s time to get back to laboring. But first, I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. It’s so nice to be able to celebrate an American holiday in America — that’s one of those little things that I have really come to appreciate over the past few years.

This weekend was about relaxing, hanging out with friends and decompressing from the week. Usually, weekends are chock-full of brunches, shopping trips and going out with friends, so it was nice to take it easy this time around. Read the rest of this entry »

They say food unites the world. I’m not sure who “they” are, but they’re damn right. Last night, Charles (my lovely host when I went to Beijing last year), had a group of friends over for a potluck dinner on one of the nicest nights this summer.

Ah, but the eternal question: What to make? Since moving into my kosher apartment, cooking has been an adventure, and an expensive one at that. Finding decently priced kosher cheese and meat requires patience and time (since most grocery stores only carry the very basics in terms of hekshered food items). But then, enter Trader Joe’s. Ah, my good friend TJ, provider of kosher cheddar and mozzarella. And $3 wine.

Inspired by Alex’s brunch quiche last month, I was fairly confident that I could make one myself. But have you ever shredded an 8 oz. block of cheese on your own? It’s tiring as hell, but makes the end result that much better. It also makes you that much more invested in the end result, which my roommate Jo will testify to. We’d lose ourselves in conversation/hookah, only for me to remember the food in the oven, jump up from the couch, run into the kitchen, fling open the oven and yell out, “Oh my god, the quiche!” This happened three or four times over a 15-minute period. The quiche was fine. Every time.

And then, the moment of truth. The quiche, with its golden brown top and flaky crust, was a hit. To be fair, everything at the table was a hit — pesto pasta, homemade dumplings, zucchini challah, guacamole, eggplant parm. With Charles’ permission, I stole a few of the photos he posted from last night.

And lastly, my baby.

Stuffed and happy, we carried the party from Charles’ house to nearby Wonderland. It was nice to spend an evening with strangers, who over the course of food and wine became friends. We’re trying to convince Charles to make this a monthly thing. After all, it’s almost autumn and I’m going to need people to eat my pumpkin spice cupcakes.