Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mystery of the Haw Flakes

The first place I can remember living is in a 2-bedroom apartment with my mom in Koreatown where we lived until I was in Kindergarten, I think. We were surrounded by awesome neighbors who left me with a couple of really good memories. The apartment to the left of our door belonged to a Korean family with a little girl who's name I couldn't remember. We used to play together a lot and I remember being in her apartment, having fun and the smells of Korean food that came out of her mom's kitchen. Its amazing that these details are the ones that stuck in my mind.

Another thing I remember about this little girl is that she used to share with me a particular kind of candy. It was a flat round disc, dusty rose in color,  and it kind of tasted like tamarind. After moving a few times and years have gone by, I remember how yummy that candy was, but I never saw it in candy shops, liquor stores or grocery stores. I would remember and search everywhere I could think of, then I'd forget and wouldn't search at all.

Then after so many years, I was sitting down to eat lunch with some friends while in grad school and one of them pulled out this little colorful package with an Asian language on it and rips it open to reveal flat dusty-rose-colored discs, that were bigger than I remembered, but definitely it! I asked her what they were called and she said Haw Flakes. She let me try one and it was confirmed. I asked her where to buy them and she said any Asian grocery should have it.

I eventually found Haw candies at Wing Hop Fung. They had more than just the discs. It was like a cornucopia of Haw! I bought a reasonable amount, but went through it fast. I went back to Wing Hop Fung, but they didn't have them anymore. Sad! So, I visited Assi,  a Korean grocery. They didn't have any Haw, but they did have MSG. Hmmm.

Fast forward to June 2012: I was at a Polynesian festival in Bonelli Park with my parents where they had a booth of candy and snacks that I guess are popular with Polynesian folks. There they were and in bulk and on sale: Haw flakes, 6 packages for a $1!!! I bought about $8 dollars worth.  Yum for a long time!
That's my story of Haw. Here are a few photos and an interesting article. After reading this, I now only eat Haw flakes in the safety of my bed!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A. J. Stephans Birch Beer

I've has this bottle of A.J. Stephan's Birch Beer in my fridge for a while now. It's something Mr. Brown bought from one of the shops on the marina in Long Beach. He and I were going to share it, but never got around to it. This was a particularly bad week and I decided it was the right time to open it up. 
First of all, this was the first birch beer I've ever had that was clear and it was crystal clear. After pouring it out into my beer tasting glass it only took a few seconds to clear the bubbles and then it was just like a glass of water. I don't know why that bothered me so much, but it did. Maybe it's because it got my brain thinking of all the bleaching chemicals that went into it that made it clear, or even worse, all the dyes that went into all the previous birch beers I've had to make them brown. Either way, this wasn't an easy beverage.
The taste was a that of birch beer, which if you don't know is kind of like root beer, but with a splash of a medicinal, Pepto Bismo-like flavor. An important fact to note: I like the way Pepto Bismo tastes. In fact, after some research, I discovered that the original Pepto Bismol formula is flavored with wintergreen, a flavor which can also be derived from teaberry and birch bark! 
So with that in mind, this one was a little too sweet for my tastes.  I don't see myself buying another bottle of this stuff. Sorry, Mr. Stephan. You wouldn't happen to have a plumber in your family? Just a thought.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beer Sampling at Pyramid's Berkeley Alehouse

A friend and I did a magically silly turn-around trip to the bay area. We drove up, ate, drank and changed clothes at Pyramid's, went around the corner to dance the night away at Havana Nights, then drove back, all in the same day. We were exhausted, but we had such a good time and I really enjoy how well you get to know people on road trips. Our friendship was truly strengthened.
But on to the beer!
One of the samples I got was Mactarnahan's Amber Ale. Funny how I find myself at a brewhouse, but end up with a guest beer. The Mac is a light lager and very piney. Very. I had a similar beer once at Father's Office. It was called pine beer. I do have to say, that our awesomely knowledgeable server, Cesar, warned me about the pineyness, but I figured it was only a sample. I didn't like it. Just wasn't my kind of beer.
Red Wheat, Apricot, Mac and Chai pint.

Another sample was Pyramid's Apricot Ale, which was a house beer. I'm pretty sure that I've had this out of a bottle before, either that or on tap at bar somewhere. But when I tried it at the alehouse, I found it not to my liking. the apricot ale was too sweet and watery like someone poured in some apricot juice into a beer. I like beers with distinct flavors but not overly sweet.
The house's Red Wheat with Fig is a really great beer. Its a pretty-to-look at medium-dark with a red tint. and had a nice dynamic flavor, although I wouldn't recommend drinking it while eating. I found the flavor of the beer was lost when the taste buds were distracted.  This beer made me want to strike up a bonfire and have a bunch of friends sitting around talking.
The winner of this tasting, and the beer I ended up with a full pint of, was Pyramid's Chai Wheat Ale. It presented a subtle yet distinct (if that's possible) chai flavor in a lightly carbonated ale. Maybe that's what ale is: not quite as smooth as a hef but not as bubble as a lager? I'm just guessing from what I know so far. It was a delicious beer that I wanted to take home and drink along with a plate of curry and roti at least once a week. But it's a limited release of this ale house and therefore not bottled for transport. But....according to the Pyramid website, it is bottled and I know its at least available as a part of the Winter Variety Pack