House Haunters

It’s been a crazy month between adjusting back to life in America, being back at work, and purchasing a new home! Yesterday we got the keys to our house, and the movers arrived this afternoon. We had a great stay with Gio, Gatsby, and Daisy over the past six weeks, and already miss having them around. On the flip side, we are quite happy to bid adieu to the storage locker that held the majority of our belongings this past year. We’ve had a few early visitors and are looking forward to many more!

Our kitchen
Lauren checking out the kitchen from our porch

Stocking the new pantry
Filling the pantry with goodies from Trader Joe’s

Moving
While the movers did the heavy lifting, we helped with a few odds and ends

Zombie cats!
Our first Halloween spirits: Zombie Cats!

Best Eggs in the Nation

After reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma a few years ago, Lauren and I started looking closer at where our food (in particular meat and eggs) came from. We are fortunate to have a staggering number of farms in Washington state, and wondered if any of them had an approach like Virginia’s Polyface farm. We didn’t know where to start, but while we were searching online, Lauren also e-mailed Michael Pollan for advice. She actually received a response in just a few days (via his aide) that recommended Skagit River Ranch as a place with similar values and farming methods to Polyface.

Thus we were introduced to the best eggs I have ever tasted. They were creamier and “eggier”. Pasture-raised chicken farming doesn’t come cheap; at ~$6/dozen it was the most I had ever spent on eggs (at that time). That said, comparing Skagit River Ranch’s eggs to generic supermarket eggs (from chickens raised like this at best), is like relating Theo’s chocolate to a Hershey’s bar.

Every other Saturday morning we would pick up a dozen at the U-District farmer’s market, until last summer when they would sell out within minutes of the market’s opening. This morning we were able to resurrect our tradition. When we stopped by Skagit River Ranch’s booth they had dozens of eggs remaining – supposedly last year’s chicks have grown up to be “very prolific.” We also found out that they were given top marks this week by the Cornucopia Institute and got a few mentions in the Seattle Times.

We celebrated the farmer’s market bounty in the form of a chanterelle/leek/truffle oil omelet, topped with chives from Gio’s garden and our homemade bread. Yum!

Chantrelle omelet

Skagit River Ranch eggs

Sleeping in Seattle

Two days (and ten time zones) later, we’re finally back in Seattle! The trip home was fine (if long), but it was frustrating to watch Puget Sound pass under us as we flew on by to SFO. On the plus side we got to spend a sunny afternoon in Millbrae with my mother-in-law before our final flight to Seattle.

After forcing ourselves to stay up until midnight, we managed to sleep in until 8AM this morning. Of course, while we’re physically awake, we’re certainly not all there yet.

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Until we find a more permanent residence, we’re staying at Gio’s lovely place, where we awake to views like this:

Mount Ranier
Mount Rainier, our favorite local volcano

Bellevue
Bellevue actually looks nice when viewed from across the lake with the Cascades in the background!

Cuban Christmas in Seattle

Our good friend Gio hosted a fabulous Christmas dinner at his new house in Seattle. And because we’re staying with him, we got to help out with the cooking. Gio taught me how to use my new favorite kitchen appliance (the pressure cooker, of course, for those who have been following along) to make his famous Cuban black beans. He made fried plantains and white rice as accompaniments. Our friends Nichol and Fernando also joined, along with their kids Enrique and Natalie. We got a few fun shots of the kids, dogs, and adults after dinner:

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Natalie, Enrique, and Lauren

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Gio and Daisy

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Gatsby

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Kenny wearing a new shirt from our Delhi shopping spree

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Lauren and Natalie

Indian Christmas Eve in Seattle

We mentioned to Mike and Erin that we’ve been making a lot of Indian food lately. Erin said that mother cooks up some great Indian fare as well, so we decided to have an Indian potluck for Christmas eve. Lauren didn’t initially realize that the Arcuris were contributing half the menu, and so asked “will we have enough food?” with the four dishes we were bringing. There were indeed six adults and three children to feed, but they had to contend with:

  • Beef samosas
  • Spicy yellow dal
  • Channa masala
  • Palak paneer
  • Aloo gobi
  • Chicken kadai
  • Curried shrimp
  • Rotis
  • Dahi

It was like having an awesome Indian buffet in your own home; and since we weren’t holding back, chocolate torte for dessert!

Plate of Indian food
The full array of dishes…or so we thought

Lauren and Indian food
Lauren with the bonus curried shrimp – delicious!

Pho Cycle Café

Rating:

We first discovered Pho Cyclo Café’s delicious banh mi chay (tofu sandwich) in the Building 26 cafeteria. We had been to the Broadway restaurant before, but hadn’t noticed the banh mis on the menu (turns out they’re hidden away in a small corner). We had sampled their bun, lemongrass chicken, and a few other Vietnamese standards. Those were fine, but not particularly memorable. The tofu sandwich is a different matter. They’ve become a regular part of our weekend lunch rotation, especially now that they’ve closed their Building 26 counter to focus on their SoDo storefront.

We had 15 minutes in between a storage errand on First Hill and massages to grab lunch. We figured, let’s try and squeeze in a Pho Cyclo sandwich! They’re right across the street from Massage Envy, and the banh mi are light enough to avoid digestive discomfort during a massage.

The sandwiches are chock full of spicy green chilies, semi-firm marinated tofu, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, and tasty fish sauce. Pho Cyclo uses fresh, crusty baguettes, and you get all of this yumminess for only $3.25!

Enjoying a tofu sandwich in the car
Enjoying our tofu Banh Mi in the car

Pho Cyclo

Pho Cyclo Café
406 Broadway East
Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 329-9256

Daily: 10:00AM-9:45PM (Lunch, Dinner)

Anticipated Seattle Culture Shock

We head back to the States in less than 72 hours. Some things that will be different:

  • We’ll be spending a lot more money. On average our fully-loaded burn rate in India has been around $100/week for the two of us, and that’s only because we’re living the high life here.
  • We won’t be able to wear flip-flops every day. Bangalore weather is amazing.
  • Entering US “holiday spirit” madness. We’ve been happily shielded from this in India, but Seattle will be all Christmas’ed up when we get home.
  • No donkeys or cows on the street. We will miss them.
  • Less exhaust fumes and incessant honking on the street. We will not miss them.
  • Relative quiet for neighborhood walks
  • Predictable traffic patterns
  • Driving a car/traffic on the right
  • No more < $2 meals (breakfast for 2 this morning clocked in at Rs37 == $0.74)
  • Adapting to non-spicy food
  • Bananas will not be as readily accessible (or as tasty). No more local pineapples, crazy cheap tomatoes and red onions, or curry leaves (of course all of this stuff, with the exception of the curry leaves, should be readily available in Thailand).
  • Eating fresh vegetables anywhere without concern for how they were washed or prepared
  • Drinking water out of the tap
  • Reliable electricity, hot water, and shower pressure

The Next Two Weeks

We have a little over two weeks remaining in India. It’s incredible how the time has flown. We had originally planned to spend our final two weeks in the north, perhaps in Rajasthan and/or Agra. However, we’ve decided we haven’t quite had our fill of the south (or its tasty cuisine), so the new plan is to defer our tour of the north until our next India trip. Yes, the Taj Mahal will have to wait, but does give us a nice excuse to come back.

This is the new plan:

  • Attend our friends Chandrika and Kirill’s India wedding in Bangalore this Saturday (we already had the honor of attending their US wedding in September). I’ll get to show off the two sarees I purchased last weekend.
  • Fly to Goa on Monday for a week on the beach. We’ve booked the entire week in Mandrem, but could potentially check out early if we decide we want to see some other beaches.
  • Back to Bangalore on Monday 12/14 for a couple of days with Sean and Archana.
  • Fly to Delhi on 12/17.
  • Fly to Seattle via Chicago on 12/19.

Then, as originally planned, we’ll have a week in Seattle, and a few days each in Los Angeles and Miami making the family rounds (including my high school reunion, meeting our new nephew, and Kenny’s stepbrother’s wedding). I’m really excited to see my family and friends – I miss everyone even more than I thought I would. I know I’ll miss India too, but it looks like we may be back as soon as June.