Thursday, June 30, 2011

England - Where Cows Go Mad (Houston's)

Hickory Burger

Spending a semester studying abroad had always been one of the things I wish I had gotten the chance to do. I'm not quite sure what appeals so much to me about studying abroad; maybe it's because I've only traveled out of the country once in my life, and that was to Hong Kong way back when I was in high school (I don't count Canada as a different country; they are more like a wannabe-version of the US). I also like seeing new places and trying out new things, so I guess that's part of the appeal as well. However, my four years in college never afforded me the opportunity to go abroad for a semester. My first two years as an undergraduate were in Rutgers' School of Pharmacy, but because these "pre-professional" years are so intensive (they cram in General Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, etc. into four semesters), students aren't allowed to study abroad. And after I came to my senses and realized that I would die of boredom as a pharmacist, I transferred to Penn for my junior and senior years, but a graduation requirement was spending at least four full semesters on campus, so again, I couldn't leave campus.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Butter and Pastries (Balthazar Bakery)

Maple-Walnut Schnecken

It may be hard to believe, but I'm going to say it: I don't really like the taste of butter. I can't really explain why I don't really like the taste of butter, but that's just the way I am. Maybe it's the greasiness and sheer heaviness that is seemingly inevitably associated with butter, but then again, I like fried foods. Or perhaps I've been scarred by my childhood, when my dad supposedly made me peanut butter and butter sandwiches for lunch every day during kindergarten. Somewhere, Paula Deen is smiling at the thought of that. Don't get me wrong, I love cookies, brownies, cakes, etc. just as much as the next person, but butter is not the dominant taste in these foods, whereas spreading a pat of butter onto, say, a piece of toast or a stack of pancakes is done to inject a heaping flavor of butter into a food. No thanks. My dislike for anything with a strong butter flavor is likely the reason why I grew up with an aversion for croissants, though to be fair, I probably never had a decent croissant in my life. Up until now, that is. After trying out some of the pastries from Balthazar Bakery, I think I am ready to accept more butter into my life than ever before.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Muddled Thoughts and Food (The Counter)

2/3-lb Burger with Gruyere, Grilled Onions, Grilled Pineapple, Roasted Red Peppers, and Roasted Green Chiles

Having just completed my first year of medical school, I am honestly quite shocked at how much material was crammed into me over the course of the past ten months. It is such a grind, and course units chock full of facts and information are taught in such a rapid-fire manner, that material learned in one unit is quickly forgotten mere days after the exam as new information is pushed in on a completely different topic. Seriously, sitting here right now just five days since my exam on the gastrointestinal system, I can say that I probably forgot at least 50% of what I had learned about pancreatic cancer, hepatitis, etc. during the course of the last two weeks. And let's not even mention all of the stuff that was taught back in September and October; I remember very few of the facts pounded into me from the first couple months of medical school, especially since I find learning about protein configurations, cellular transport mechanisms, etc. as interesting as watching paint dry. With so much information crammed into the school year, it's almost inevitable that all of the topics kind of became muddled and the facts got lost, confused with one another, or just straight-up forgotten about.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

High-End Sushi (15 East)

Assorted Sushi

When I was a kid, there was a cartoon called Doug, and in one episode, Doug's grandmother takes him out to eat sushi for the first time. At first, Doug is pretty resistant to the idea of eating raw fish, falsely believing that raw fish equates to live fish. He eventually gets over his fear of sushi and ends up really liking it. Likewise, I did not try sushi until I was in high school because, up until then, I was grossed out by the prospect of eating something that was raw. Since then, though, sushi has become one of my favorite foods, and I think I've been trying my best to make up for the lost years by going for all-you-can-eat sushi as often as possible. Now, I know that many sushi snobs aficionados will say that sushi is not meant to be eaten in an AYCE format and that such sushi is terrible quality. While I will agree that there are some dud AYCE sushi joints serving up old fish with poor-quality rice, the good AYCE places are a godsend for poor college kids like me - $21.95 for as much sushi as I want at my favorite neighborhood joint, Yuka. Sure, it's not premium quality, but it's very good and definitely gets the job done when I get a craving. Contrast that to how much it would cost to fill me up eating a la carte or doing an omasake at a nice Japanese restaurant, and you can see how AYCE sushi just makes so much more sense for someone like me. To me, the difference in quality is more than made up for by the substantial difference in price.