Visit from Brian

My friend, Brian Hill, stopped in Taipei and we met up. I haven’t seen him in ten years, since we were both in Beijing. He is originally from Los Angeles and lives there now as well. He has always been a really cool individual. He works for Princess Cruises and came out to their offices in Taiwan to help work on an ad campaign. We walked and talked around the Shida night market (near my university), finally decided on a jiaozi restaurant. The food was great, especially their fried kimchi jiaozi. Very delicious.


In addition to my friend stopping in town, I also captured a picture of my local sausage street vendor, although these guys have a little shop. Called 黃家香腸, or Yellow House Sausages, these are extremely tasty. On google reviews, they have a 4.2 rating and are rather popular in the city. Every time I go there, I always have to wait in line. The workers are very friendly and ready for conversation (if the line is not too busy). As a bonus, they are really close to my apartment.

Khan Baba – Wudaokou, Haidian, Beijing

I would like to mention one thing up front first – I love Chinese food. I love its depth and complexity, something difficult to find in the typical Americanized take-out joints so ubiquitous in every town in the States. Chinese food, with its eight major cuisines and many smaller ones, has been one of the great joys of my life. When in the US, I completely miss it. In China, however, I start to miss other things. There are some great restaurants in Beijing catering to many of those needs. This review is of one of them – Baba Khan, a small Pakistani restaurant in Wudaokou. In fact, there are two locations, the main one in Chaoyang and the smaller, newer branch in Wudaokou. If you go to the U-Center on Chengfu Lu, travel south for about 5 minutes, it is on your right in a small strip mall next to a motel and a massage place.

When I first started to live in Wudaokou, I would often get my South Asian food fix at Ganges Restaurant on the 6th floor of the U-Center. Now, Ganges is a good restaurant, with the food being good. Baba Khan opened about a year and a half ago and it quickly blew Ganges out of the water in two of my favorite categories – price and taste. It tastes better and is cheaper, which, in truth, might also have an effect on the taste. Baba Khan’s dishes on their dinner menu generally run anywhere between 10-20 RMB cheaper than the competition. Plus, they have hummus, that gift to man straight from deity. To make matters even better, they run a 55 RMB all you can eat lunch buffet. Every single person I have taken there (less 2 Chinese friends – weird, right) has loved the food. Here is a picture of my lunch from last week, with naan bread, tandoori chicken, rice, and three kinds of curry:

Celebration of 2 Birthdays


Sullivan’s Steakhouse just off College Dr. has the best steak that I have ever tasted in the city of Baton Rouge. As one of my brothers stated, “It ruins you for any other steak in the area.” Be warned, however, you pay for the quality as it is “a la carte”. I felt like I got mugged, but was still happy because of the flavor of the steak. 5 out of 5 stars.

I went to Sullivan’s with my brother John and his wife, Marianne. They graciously allow me to stay with them every time I come home to Walker. I guess I should invite my nephew because I actually take his bedroom with I come home, but….nah. Sorry, Tyler. This was the second time I have eaten there for my birthday and since John’s birthday is three days before mine, I invited them to eat with me.

Trip to Taiwan – Jan. 31st-Feb. 11th

For the Chinese New Year’s celebration, I decided to leave town like I do every year. I chose Taiwan, which was a poor choice. I had a horrible trip, but not because of the food, people, or the accommodations. It was the weather that did me in. It even started off bad because I missed my flight. DragonAir was extremely kind and bumped me to a later flight (that I almost missed as well).

My first night in Taibei was quite nice. I had a foot massage and treatment that cost me about $30. An old man worked on my feet for about an hour and demanded more money because of their state. He scrapped the dead skin off with a straight razor and some other tools, causing me to lose about 5 lbs. of body weight in the process. I was staying right next to the Shilin Night Market, which had some delicious food.

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On my 2nd day in the city, I went down to Taiwan National University and then over to Taiwan Normal University. I was scouting out the place because I am considering moving there in 2017. I have heard great things about Taiwan Normal’s Chinese language program. While I was down in that part of the city, I went to a bookstore that I know reprints some out-of-print Chinese history books. I bought two for about $25. When I move to Taiwan, they will be seeing a great deal more of me. For lunch, I walked up to Diantaifeng, the most famous restaurant in Taiwan. I waited for 45 minutes, but it was worth the wait. In fact, I went three times (2x in Taibei and once in Gaoxiong). I know there is one in Beijing, but I waited to try the original place in Taibei. Here is some picture:
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On the 3rd day, I went over to the War Memorial Shrine, which honors the Chinese Nationalist soldiers killed in World War II. From there, I walked over to the National Palace Museum. There was a lot of people there, but they also had some magnificent artifacts from Imperial China. In fact, they have most of the items from the Palace museum in Beijing (the Nationalist carried it with them when they fled to Taiwan).
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The 2nd and 3rd day turned out to be a killer for me. I got a nasty cold. I spent the rest of the trip (8 days) in bed, taking on cold medicine. I traveled down to Taizhong, but saw none of it. I went to Gaoxiong and was only able to get out of bed for few hours to meet my friend Caroline. She is an awesome person I met in Beijing, when she was studying at Beijing Foreign Languages University. In Gaoxiong, I experienced the earthquake on Feb. 6, 2016. No disrespect to the 117 people who perished, but when I woke and determined that a) I was not going to die and b) the building was not going to fall on me. I rolled over and went back to bed. I was that sick.
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Despite getting sick, I loved Taiwan. I wished that I had gone sooner and that I was healthy enough to experience all of it.

*Update* April 5th – I have been sick for some while. My cold turned into pneumonia. The doctor at the 3rd Hospital Affiliated with Beijing University said no, but what does he know. In addition, the constant coughing caused me to have laryngitis. This is horrible since I am a teacher. Two weeks with no work. Blah.

Pinotage Restaurant and Bar – Shunyi, Beijing

A friend from church talked several of us into going to a South African restaurant in Beijing, Pinotage. I was a bit hesitant because South Africa somehow does not scream out to me “awesome gastronomical experience.” I could not be more wrong though. It was a great place to eat. We had appetizers of Boerewors (a SA sausage), samosas and this type of bread stick with a savory sauce. I ordered a Caesar salad, a strawberry smoothie, and a Chicken Kiev. All of it was delicious, especially the chicken. It used a curry sauce instead of the traditional herb butter. I also tried the dishes selected by my dining partners. Each dish was excellent.

The only downside to experience was that it was difficult to find. It is out in Shunyi, which is quite far from where I live. There is one in Sanlitun, but we went to this one because of better reviews. Also, we had to get a taxi because it is not close to the station. This was not detrimental to the dining experience, however. I definitely recommend this restaurant to Beijing foodies. Unfortunately, I neglected to take pictures.

Address: Lane Bridge Villa Compound, Laiguanying Donglu  来光营东路9号


Hunan Garden – Salt Lake City, UT

I was invited to this restaurant to meet up with some friends that I had come to know through our study abroad trip to Tianjin in 2009. I keep in touch rather regularly with Lisa using Gchat, but I had not seen or talked to Quincy since that trip. The setting for our reunion  was a delightful place up near Sugarhouse at 21st South and 21st East. The owner knew Lisa since she was a regular visitor to this place.

We ordered the hotpot (火锅) without spicy, thus avoiding my lifelong war with 花椒*, or Sichuan peppercorns. We had both chicken and beef with assorted vegetables and tofu. I asked the owner if she had any 木耳, literally woodears or black tree fungus. She did not but did recommend some tasty shiitake (香菇) mushrooms.

When we received the bill, I was quite surprised to note that the experience only cost $19 for each of us. Lisa stated that the more people there are, the less the bill for each person. This so reminded me of China. All in all, this was a great restaurant where I was able to enjoy delicious food and practice my very poor Chinese.

*I do not hate huajiao but only the frequency that it is used, especially in Sichuan. Having lived in Chengdu for a year, I was inundated with the stuff. While most of my friends love it, I never quite caught the bug. I do like it in small portions, though.

Hi-Ho BBQ – Denham Springs, LA

It represents the memory of my youth. Sliced pork loaded with sauce on a toasted bun accompanied by a side of chips and root beer in the bottle. Anytime my family got anywhere near to Hammond, Louisiana, we had to stop in for a Hi-Ho BBQ sandwich. My mother ate there during her time at Southeastern Louisiana University back in the 1960’s and I ate there as well during my stint at SLU.

I was quite excited when I heard that Hi-Ho was opening a location, its #4, in Denham Springs, the town closest to my hometown. I went there and was not too impressed. I went to Graduate School and China for a while and then accepted a job in Watson working for the parish library. Everyday, I drive by the Hi-Ho restaurant. I decided a week or so ago to give it another shot. I don’t know if it quite lives up to my nostalgia, but it was really tasty. The only two issues I had was that it had too much sauce and at $2.75 for a plain seemed a tad too overpriced. The first is easy to solve while the second complaint I can chalk up to memory and inflation.

As for the sandwich, it was really good and bore a great resemblance to what I remembered eating out in Hammond for so many years. Hi-Ho is not a traditional BBQ place in that it serves a great variety of meats. BBQ here means pork or beef on a bun. However, they have updated their menu with burgers, fries and some other selections. For me, however, the plain pork sandwich reigns supreme. No cheese or any other distractions – just pork, sauce and bun.

5 Guys – Baton Rouge, LA

How can I describe my most loved burger? When I stepped off the plane from China after having been there an entire year, the first thing I did was look for the shuttle at LAX that would take me to the nearest In & Out Burger. My love of this place was consolidated around a decade ago during my mission to California for my church. While I enjoyed Cali, In & Out in a sense capstoned the experience for me. The burger was delicious, the fries were quite good, and in the days before I recognized my inability to process lactose, I downed it with their signature shake. This review is not about In & Out though.

Others, many of whom have the knowledge to make such a comparison, stated that 5 Guys had a burger that was up there with In & Out. I decided eagerly to try this hypothesis out, despite my somewhat low expectations. I found the burger to be almost as good as In & Out. It was certainly kicked up a notch by the selection of options to put on the burger. I chose grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and jalapenos to marry up with the traditional cheese, lettuce and mayonnaise. Perhaps the only thing that could set 5 Guys above my beloved is the cajun seasoned fries. They just fill the bag up with them and overload you with a potato avalanche of tastiness. On this factor, In & Out is left far behind.

The only real issue that I had with 5 Guys was the price. The burger was $5 & something with a $2 drink and a $2.50 bag of fries. It was definitely going for the artisan burger feel while In & Out provides its food at more reasonable prices. However, while I hesitated to pay $11, I was certainly not disappointed by the burger. In my quest for burger perfection, I may have to try Mugshots in Baton Rouge as well. Several people indicated to me that they prefer this place to 5 Guys. I will certainly have to see how they compare to In & Out.

Caribbean Jamaican & Seafood Restaurant – Biloxi, MS

I love trying new cuisuine as anyone who knows me could well attest. So, several months ago during a visit to my brother in Biloxi, I heard about a great Caribbean restaurant from my sister-in-law, DeAnne. Since I have never tasted food from this part of the world, I thought I would give it a go. It turned out to be a great decision.

When you enter the restaurant it does not seem like much. A couple of tables and two or three booths. We were greeted by Raymond, who I think ownes the place. He was one of the friendliest waiters I have had in a long time. I decided on the chicken curry with a side of white rice and jalapeno hush puppies. Jason, my brother, ordered the jerk chicken with a side of french fries and hush puppies. DeAnne wanted jerk pork with a salad. Her second side was something called Festival, which Raymond described as a beignet without the powdered sugar. Each of these dishes were about $8.50. The portions were quite big allowing me to sample quite a bit from each of these dishes.

The jerk chicken was very good but I have to say that the pork was better. It had the flavor that you get eating beef jerky but as a sauce. It sounds unusual but I really loved it, especially in the pork as it had a little extra kick of something. The Festival was quite good, but my hands down favorite was the hush puppies. Reminded me of my childhood although my maman never included jalapenos in hers. The curry chicken that I had was fantastic. It had the chicken meat chopped up with the bones, so it really reminded me of my years in China. I spit out a lot of bones over there. :-) The anticipation and arrival of the food was so great that I forgot to take photos of the food so you will just have to accept my word on it.

If you get to Biloxi, do not forego a taste of the islands in this little joint. Excellent food and excellent atmosphere made for a great dining experience. It is located just outside the gates of Keesler AFB on Pass Rd. It is very close to a previously mentioned place, R&C Korean Restaurant. My brother observantly pointed out that Biloxi, despite its size, has some great little restaurants due to the Air Force Base. Very true and something that makes my trips there all the more enjoyable.

Pho Quynh – Baton Rouge, LA

In the winter of 2006, I accompanied two friends on a journey through Southeast Asia for three weeks. We spent a week in Thailand, one in Cambodia, and a final one in Vietnam. During this time, I found paradise. When a man finds something close to heaven, it is difficult to replicate if it is not at the same place with the same people. Me and one of my friends – a beautiful, young lady – visited the Temple of Confucius in Hanoi. Outside of one of the gates, we sat down on a little curbside cafe operating out of a small stall. There, I had the best Ph? that man can taste. Heaven. Later that night, we attended a wonderful opera that capstoned the experience.

Upon arriving home, I tried to find something that could bring back that experience. To find paradise anew. I found Pho Quynh in Baton Rouge. I have eaten Vietnamese in California, Utah, and here. This place is as close to that little stall – and heaven – as I have found in the States so far. Today, I went with my eldest brother and a friend of ours. While they were no beautiful lady, enough stimulating conversation was provided to get me to the time when the food arrived. We had some delicious eggrolls and springrolls with peanut sauce. My course was a bowl of beef pho – with fatty brisket, round steak, and tripe. Add a little Thai basil, beansprouts, and chili sauce for magic. I considered licking the bowl, but I remembered sometime in the hazy past my mother warning me not to be uncouth at the table. Although I was able to restrained myself, the temptation was mighty. Go check it out for yourself.