Monday, September 12, 2016

Chinese Restaurant 7,000--Dim Sum Inn in Salinas

So I've been seriously searching for Chinese restaurants to eat at for 40 years now, simultaneously with my starting to travel the United States, and also developing an interest in the newfangled authentic Chinese food that began to appear in the United States.  At a fairly steady pace for 40 years, I've managed to hit the 7,000 restaurant mark.  In logging in my restaurant visits, I consider each round hundred milestone to be special, and what makes a Chinese restaurant more special than not being easily able to go to a return visit?  As a result, each "hundred" restaurant has been located some distance away from my Los Angeles home.

Of course keeping this convention requires quite a bit of advance planning.  It's not that my restaurant count hits, say, 6,499, and I can hop on a plane and fly someplace for number 6,500 (which for those keeping score was the oddly named Fei Tenc in Manhattan Chinatown).   No, instead I look at my upcoming planned trips and then change the pace of my new restaurant visits accordingly, either rapidly accelerating or decelerating my current additions as needed.  And in some cases, accelerating my pre-travel restaurant visits may not be good enough as I've also needed a large count at my destination to hit the magic hundred.  Fortunately, multi-day trips to dining centers such as San Francisco and New York can provide two dozen new restaurants for a trip, where eating as many as four meals a day, each at a different restaurant, can increase the count.

Now hitting 7,000 proved tricky because that magic mark was on track to be reached this summer, but we did not schedule a summer vacation this year for various reasons.  Every one of the first six "thousand" milestones was at an east coast restaurant.  1,000 was at Bo Bo China in Niagara Falls NY, 2,000 was at Eat First in Washington DC, 3,000 was at House Fortune in Gaithersburg MD, 4,000 was at Sun Dou Dumpling House in Manhattan, 5,000 was at Miu Kee in Falls Church VA and 6,000 was at Zheng's Family in Manhattan.  However with no east coast trips planned until 2017, I had to settle for the Monterey, CA area, where we were going to attend a wedding.  The problem with Monterey, however, is that I had already eaten at all of the Chinese restaurants in Monterey.  Not that I'm a frequent visitor there, but Monterey is one of those cities where the turnover of Chinese restaurants is negligible.  The same restaurants that were there 20 years ago are there today.  So I needed to focus my attention on Salinas, which was somewhat conveniently located on our drive home back from Monterey.

I consulted my master national list of Chinese restaurants that I would like to eat at if I ever visited a particular city.  There are hundreds of restaurants on this list, most of which I'll never get to since the chances that I'll return to, say, Little Rock, AR are remote.   The list did have a couple of entries for Salinas but they may have been outdated.  In checking the Yelp reviews for these restaurants, I stumbled across a stunning suggested Chinese restaurant in Salinas, Dim Sum Inn.  Dim sum in Salinas?  While Salinas may have had a Chinese community that included a physical Chinatown in the early to mid 20th century, certainly not enough of it remained today to justify anything remotely authentic.  Yet, late last year, Dim Sum Inn opened up in north Salinas.

I must admit that after the initial excitement of learning about dim sum in Salinas, the excitement wore off as I figured they were reheating dim sum peddled by Sysco or one of the other food supply companies. However, when I got there on Sunday morning after the wedding festivities in Carmel Valley had ended, I  discovered that this was indeed a real find.   For one thing, this wasn't Sysco stuff, but in-house made dim sum. How did I know? Well, for one, they had several dim sum varieties that I had seldom, if ever seen. Chicken shen jen bao, which I only encountered at Imperial Seafood in Concord and Old Sichuan in Manhattan Chinatown. Chicken cheung fun, which I've only remember eating at Century Plaza on the edge of Oakland Chinatown. Chicken siu mai, also a rarely seen item. Chicken taro dumpling and onion bun, which I have never seen anywhere. And these oversized, oddly colored baked bbq pork buns, unlike anything I've ever seen before. Also it took a good 20 minutes for these items to come out of the kitchen. Not to say this was the best dim sum I've eaten, but given that I wouldn't expect to find any of this stuff within a 75 mile radius this was a real treat. The one downside is that everything is $5.50 an order, which is more expensive than the fanciest dim sum in Los Angeles. 

 Of course, the question is why is there dim sum in Salinas.  I asked the guy behind the counter if there were many Chinese residents in Salinas and he said there weren't. He did indicate there were Chinese scattered around the Monterey area so I presume that's their core audience for the dim sum menu. When I was in the restaurant, clientele was primarily non-Asian, ordering off the Americanized Chinese menu (the dim sum menu is separate), with just a few Chinese diners.  But whatever the reason, thank you Dim Sum Inn for being there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Best Chinese Restaurant In Los Angeles You Probably Never Heard Of

People have always been on the lookout for those hole-in-the-wall, under the radar dining gems.  But these kinds of restaurants seldom exist these days with every millennial being a foodie, and food discoveries instantaneously disseminated on social media, Yelp reviews and message boards.  Having said that, one of the best Cantonese restaurants (and probably the one with the most different array of dishes) in Los Angeles is one that most people haven't heard of, Embassy Kitchen in San Gabriel.

Everybody knows the top tier Hong Kong style restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley--Sea Harbour, King Hua, Elite and Lunasia top most lists, with China Red, Happy Harbor, Grand Harbor and Shi Hai mentioned in the next tier.  Embassy Kitchen is different because it is not a giant seafood palace with conspicuous tanks of live seafood.  Indeed, it was probably an afterthought when it opened up in 1999 as Embassy Billiard, reflecting the fact that it was in front of, and adjunct to the pool hall of the same name.  And seventeen years later, while "insiders" know about the gems served here, it's still under the radar.

It's hard to describe what makes Embassy Kitchen so good, aside from the fact that the food tastes good and there are many seldom seen Hong Kong style dishes served here.  And the different dishes here are hard to categorize, as they range from homestyle to the upscale, some of which need to be ordered a day or two in advance.  But perhaps what obscures the food here is the fact that there is an extensive Chinese language only menu supplement, not translated into English as the owner admits because he doesn't know how to correctly describe the dishes.  These dishes are listed on the inside front and back covers of the menu, and I think the best thing to do is just to list them here.

Inside front cover:
Tilapia rolls with picked vegetables and whole bone carcass
Boneless chicken stuffed with shrimp paste
Boneless chicken stuffed with sticky rice
Pan fried tilapia
Pumpkin with burdock
Spare ribs in vinegar
Bitter million crab meat omelet
Mustard green with chicken and sausage
Spare rib hot pot
 Celery with pork and peppers
Pan fried chicken/sausage/chestnut patty
Vegetable goji berry soup
Clear rice noodles with cabbage, egg and dried scallop
Pork and Japanese yam in X.O. sauce
Beef with string beans in Maggi sauce
Steamed eggplant with dry scallop and ground pork
Fatty beef with mixed mushrooms in Korean bbq sauce
French style tenderloin

Inside back cover:
Baked crab in clay pot
Melon with fresh bean curd skin
 Ground pork/bok choy/dried bean curd skin soup
Pork neck with celery
Spare rib with preserved mustard greens and dried shrimp soup
3 ingredients chicken with chestnuts
Japanese style sea bass
Sea bass with tofu with shrimp paste
Sea bass mustard green soup
 Steamed eggs with tofu and mixed seafood
Abalone mushroom with spinach
 Garlic spare ribs
Chinese sausage with napa
Stuffed chicken wings
Sea bass with mushroom and tofu
Steamed tilapia with sliced pork and lemon
Lamb with two mushrooms

 English menu highlights:
Crab fried rice
Imitation shark fin with egg white
House special chicken
Stuffed duck
French style beef stew
Fried pork leg
Boneless stuffed tilipia

Reviving Windows XP Mode and Recovering My Two Years Lost Address List

When I upgraded computers several years ago from Windows XP to Windows 7, I found to my horror that a number of my computer programs would no longer run on the Windows 7 upgrade.  Fortunately the nice people at Alice Computer in San Marino told me that if I upgraded to the professional version of Windows 7 for something under $100, part of the package was a Windows XP emulator mode, which made me a happy camper.

But then a couple of years ago things started to fall apart.  I was still using a DOS based address list, and one day it became inoperable.  Then a year ago all of the icons on my Windows XP virtual computer screen went similarly inoperable, only making a clanging sound when I clicked on the icon. Given that the Windows XP virtual mode itself wasn't widely well known, attempts to look for a fix were fruitless.  But my XP mode start menu was still operating, so running programs off of that was a satisfactory workaround.

But then the other shoe dropped the other day, when I tried running the Windows XP virtual computer, and while it launched, everything was dead as a doornail.  I decided to take one last search on the internet, and found a discussion which seemed to say that a single file deletion could get Windows XP up and running again.  Breathlessly I looked for the file as directed and found it and deleted it.  Then running the Windows XP virtual machine, while having to clear a dialog box which indicated not everything was perfect, it ran beautifully--my Key Mailer DOS program was running again as was my Microsoft Access.  So if it happens again, here is the magic file:  Windows XP Mode.vsv in the folder C:\users\\appdata\microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Week In San Francisco (Sort of)

Going to San Francisco for a week sounds like the blueprint for a wonderful time.  But when our Monday through Friday trip entailed driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Monday, spending three full days in a seminar on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and driving back to Los Angeles on Friday it sounds a lot less enticing.  But despite the lack of sightseeing, the opportunity to try out some restaurants did make the trip very enjoyable.

Driving up Interstate 5 and then I-580, we stopped for dinner in Dublin.  Originally I thought about going to the Mayflower Restaurant which was supposed to be pretty good, but which was a chain that I had eaten at in a number of Bay Area locations,  So we headed instead to Golden Sand Harbor on Amador Valley Blvd.  The waitress there was a little pushy and she directed us away from the dishes we asked about initially, ending up with seabass with garlic and rib eye with mushrooms, along with seafood soup. Seabass was quite good, rib eye and soup were so so.  Pricey at $63 before tip. Exchanging messages with my son back home who had recently eaten at Mayflower in Dublin, he indicated that Mayflower was likewise pricey with food also far below San Gabriel Valley quality.

My seminar was conveniently located on Market Street and just a couple of blocks from our San Francisco office so I shuttled between the locations all week.  On Tuesday morning I walked across the street to make a dinner reservation at Hakkasan.  On my way there I spotted the sign that seemed to say "Nepalese food" on this trailer sitting in front of one of the Market St. office buildings.  It turned out to be Bini’s Kitchen where I ordered a batch of turkey momo with spicy tomato cilantro sauce.  (See below.)  Wow!  I'd be a regular if I worked in downtown SF.   After class let out at 6pm and it was across the street to Hakkasan.  This was my first dinner at Hakkasan after trying the lunchtime dim sum at their Manhattan and now-defunct Beverly Hills locations.  There were lots of interesting items on the menu, and we ended up with the fried silver cod, the home made tofu with soybeans and dried scallops, and the Sanpei chicken. Everything was so perfectly prepared and tasty.

Pickings were slim at Wednesday’s seminar breakfast so I was hungry by 10am and coincidentally the Nepalese restaurant opened at 10 am, so I went across the street to get another order of the turkey momo. Wednesday’s dinner was another highlight, as we met my nephew for dinner at our favorite, Cooking Papa in Foster City.   We had an excellent dinner of two types of fish broth noodle soup (egg noodles  in one order, thick round rice noodle in the other), duck cheung fun, egg tofu, lotus leaf sticky rice,  white ong choy and pepper beef chow mein.

Thursday was my one lunch exploration day, since the late morning session turned out to be not useful  It was an eight block walk to Let’s Jam Café in the tenderloin, one of the few Mongolian restaurants in the US.  The huushur (beef dumpling) was huge.  Kind of like a hamburger patty in a pita bread, sliced in half.  Five of these dumplings for $10 was a good deal and kept me full the whole day.  For a change I thought it would be a good idea to have Italian food near the hotel. for dinner  We wanted to eat at Capps Corner, where we ate a few times.  We liked it because the meals are reasonable and came with soup and salad included.  However, when we got there the storefront was empty with a For Rent sign.  As it turns out, after 40 years the restaurant got in a dispute with the landlord and shut down.  As a result we ended up at North Beach Restaurant at Stockton and Columbus, another Italian restaurant that had been there for decades, with a jolly, throwback maitre’d.   We had the spaghetti in vodka sauce and the linguine with clams.  Both were pretty good.

Friday we picked up various types of dim sum for the trip back.  Highlights were a poor man’s version of the crispy top bbq pork bun for $1.25 from iCafe Chinatown and the sticky rice from Good Mong Kok, not wrapped in lotus leaf, but rather a wonton type of skin.  And perhaps the most interesting sight on the drive back to Los Angeles was the innovative strategy to deal with the drought and the cutback in irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley--a nopal (large edible cactus) farm.

Fighting Wool Eating Moths

You can imagine how upset I was when I opened up the closed suit bag holding my Oleg Cassini suit and found that moths had eaten a couple of holes in the pants.  Figuring it still would be cheaper to reweave the holes, rather than buying a new suit, I shelled out something like $15 to have each hole filled.  But a couple of years later, the moths struck back and there were new holes.  Since my original reweaver had gone out of business, I found a new one.  I lamented to my new launderer/tailor about battling moths and wondered why they chose to eat up my best suit which was in a suit bag, but not touch my other suits which were not.

His response was very interesting, one that I hadn't heard before, but which I have since confirmed to be accurate.  For clothing to be susceptible to being eaten by moths, it has to be 100 percent wool.  If the material is a wool blend, the moths don't care about it.  That's why the moths concentrated on my good suits.  Interestingly, subsequently I purchased a very heavy winter overcoat in the Bronx, paying only $75 for this item which had most of its tags removed.  I was puzzled when the moths attacked this item, though it was so thick that it was still usable despite a little damage.  Turns out that unbeknownst to me, until I took it to the cleaners, this was a pure wool overcoat.

Even after learning the distinction between wool garments and wool blends,  I wondered why encasing the suit in a nice suit bag didn't protect it from the moths, while my cheaper everyday suits that I never bagged survived.  He explained that the danger was not from moths flying around your closet.  Rather the danger was from moth eggs that are deposited on the wool garment.  So if your wool suit already has moth eggs on them, sealing it in a bag provides no protection.

Furthermore, he added two important points.  Moth eggs are everywhere, so leaving my wool suit outside insures that it would attract some eggs. But if you actually go out and wear the suit, as opposed to leaving it hanging stationary in the closet, somehow the broader airing prevents the moth eggs from hatching.    So it was the act of bagging it that ensured my suit would provide a meal for hungry moths.

The last piece of useful information is that dry cleaning a suit will kill the moth eggs, so if you bag the suit as soon as it is cleaned, you can safely store it away.  Another launderer I spoke with indicated that this will protect the suit for at least a year.  So for seasonally worn wool clothing, annual cleaning and bagging will let you outsmart those pesky moths.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

48 Hours On The East Coast

Since my work group is headquartered in Washington D.C., I have occasion to travel there for our group meetings.  However, since I'm the only one in my group who does what I do, the content of these meetings isn't always that relevant.  This was the case a couple of weeks ago with our latest meeting, but the trip was by no means wasted as there were a number of important dining highlights.

Landing at Reagan airport in DC I headed directly to Grace Garden Restaurant in Odenton, Maryland, located sort of between Baltimore and Annapolis.  Well, not directly, because due to rush hour traffic and pouring rain, it took 2 hours to drive what probably should have taken 50 minutes. I went to Grace Garden specifically for their fish noodles, which I had assumed to be like the fish noodles I had in New York, and which I wrote about for Menuism,  Those fish noodles were like eating rubber bands, so you can imagine my surprise when the waitress at Grace Garden brought their fish noodles out.  These had the consistency, as well as look, of real noodles.  It was a little bit like fish cake, but less dense.  Chatting with the waitress, I commented on the difference from other fish flour noodles I’ve eaten, and she said that there was no flour in these noodles.  I’m not sure whether this meant it was 100 percent ground fish, or whether there were other ingredients, just not flour.  Also since the restaurant was empty while I was there, I had assumed that Chinese families from Baltimore flocked there on weekends, but she indicated that they had few Chinese customers at anytime.  I found this startling since they had a separate authentic Chinese menu in addition to their Americanized tourist menu (though the Chinese language description of these dishes was unusually inconspicuous.)   The waitress’ explanation was that there were a lot of residents in the area who had eaten Chinese food in China (maybe diplomatic types?), so they were quite sophisticated.  But it blows my thesis that a good authentic Chinese restaurant needs a critical mass of Chinese clientele.    Also I asked her about other good Chinese food in the DC area, mentioning towns such as Wheaton, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Falls Church where I have eaten, but she said that the Chinese food there is on the decline and not very good, and you have to go to New York or California for good Chinese food.

I only had a smidgen of Chinese food in Washington D.C. itself which is not particularly known for good Chinese food.  I stopped by Zengo, an Asian/Latin fusion restaurant in the heart of Chinatown for their foie gras shu mai, which looked a lot better than it tasted.  Also had a taro bun at Joy Luck House.  It cost $2.25 and wasn’t very good, further testament to the low quality of food in DC Chinatown.

In my younger days I would have flown directly back to Los Angeles immediately after the end of my meeting, but I no longer can withstand cross country flights on consecutive days.  So I decided to drive to Philadelphia and stay overnight, then drive the next day to New York for a flight back to Los Angeles.  This gave me a chance to revisit Philadelphia after a 10 year absence and do some work for my Menuism article on Philadelphia Chinatown. In 10 years things had really changed. Actually the footprint of Chinatown seemed to be the same as before.  But there were many new restaurants and lots of young Chinese on the streets.  Philadelphia Chinatown has been invigorated by an influx of Chinese students like the places that I’ve written about.   I made quite a few notes about the new restaurants in Chinatown.  I was hoping to have a Philly Cheesesteak eggroll, but the one place that had it on the menu, Spicy C Hand Drawn Noodle, was out, so I had to settle for fried fish balls.  I also stopped by Dim Sum Garden, which actually is a northern Chinese restaurant, which was totally packed–with non-Chinese diners.  I ordered the chicken dumplings which were terrific as they were made with white meat, something you almost never see.  I also ordered Fujian fish cake soup to take back to the hotel from Ming River Sidewalk Café.  The Fujian fish cake soup was a real discovery.  It was a cross between fish meat and a rice cake!  The middle definitely had meat fibers, but the outside was smooth like a rice cake., and vaguely reminiscent of Grace Garden's fish noodles.  (In contrast, Grace Garden had no meaty fibers.)  I wonder if there was some link between the two dishes.  One negative about the soup was that it was quite sour, something symptomatic of Fujianese cooking.

The last day was the real adventure.  I headed to northeast Philadelphia to seek out what might be described as a secret second Chinatown.   Philadelphia is not like LA or many of the other cities that have a suburban Chinese community.   However I remember reading maybe 10 years ago about how Chinese priced out of New York had started moving to a lower end portion of Philadelphia and were starting to build up a community.  My only information was one authentic Chinese restaurant on Castor Ave., so I made my way out there.   A block on Castor Ave. with a Chinese restaurant, and Chinese jewelry store, a Chinese notary, and a Chinese construction contractor.  And down a couple of blocks was a Chinese grocery store and a Chinese real estate broker.  (And a few blocks away I found a Chinese computer store.)  Interestingly I could find no internet references to this Chinese community, not even the original article I had read.

I then headed up US Highway 1 towards New York.  If time permitted I could go to Flushing to eat before my late afternoon flight home.  While I have been to Flushing several times, the Chinatown has grown so much in the years since I started visiting it in the late 1990s such that there is a stretch on Main Street that is too far away from where I normally stay as it’s beyond walking distance.  So when I turned onto the south end of Main St., I saw all the places that I had been wanting to try–New Lake Pavilion, East Dim Sum, Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao and Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet.  There would be plenty of food for the airport and the long flight home, and then some!

The Flushing highlight was definitely the vegetarian chicken at Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao.  Equal to, if not better than the version at Homer’s Taste in Flushing, where I usually get that dish.   Like Mounds candy bars, it was indescribably delicious.  This is the one dish that Flushing does better than anywhere in California, and was the perfect ending to a great trip.  But honorable mention goes to the beef cheung fun from East Dim Sum, which was as good as it gets.  And special note goes to the giant steamed chicken bao from New Lake Pavilion, which was a meal in itself.  This is a version of an old Toishanese American item, a steamed bao with chicken, lop chung and egg yolk.  It was particularly widespread in old San Francisco Chinatown (one restaurant there sells it, calling it the Toishan bun), not so much in Los Angeles, and not particularly one of my favorites.  But this one was pretty good and well worth the $2.25 charge, which I did not initially understand.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Life As a "Z" List Celebrity

So everybody has heard about "A" list and "B" list celebrities.  Then Kathy Griffin made light of this by proclaiming herself as a "D" list celebrity.  But now the attention paid to "celebrities" has gotten so out of hand that people like myself have become borderline celebrities, which I'll refer as being on the celebrity "Z" list.

I'm not sure what makes a celebrity in today's world, but there are celebrity doctors, celebrity dentists, and celebrity real estate brokers.  A former co-worker has been described as a celebrity real estate developer.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were celebrity plumbers and celebrity gardeners. Having been referred to as a "celebrity diner" seems to put me in a similar category.

While I'm not sure exactly what makes a celebrity these days, my own experience does provide some clues.  When Clarissa Wei wrote her profile about me for L.A. Weekly  I considered the piece to be something of limited interest, just to Los Angeles area foodies.  I had been corresponding with Clarissa about Chinese restaurants when I casually mentioned that I had eaten at over 6,000 of them. Immediately she jumped on the topic and asked whether anybody had ever written me up.  My response was "Why would anybody do that?"  In a week's time we had scheduled the interview, she wrote her article, and it was posted on the L.A. Weekly website.   Even when the article was reprinted the next day by the Huffington Post, I figured interest was still foodie centered, just without a geographic limitation.  But things really got weird by the end of the week when the story was picked up on as their lead current story.  That led to dozens of celebrity websites around the world reproducing the People article, even a Bollywood celebrity website in India.  I think that sequence was sufficient to push me onto the "Z" list, at least for 15 minutes.

Of course I would have quickly become a has been celebrity if not for intervening events. Those learning I had eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants presumed (though mistakenly so) that made me an expert on Chinese food,  Days after the 6,000 restaurant article was posted, I received a request from the Asia Society to do a listing of the top Chinese restaurants in the United States.  When I looked at the listing I came up with, each and every one was located in California, seven in the Los Angeles area and three in the San Francisco Bay area.  Knowing that such lists  usually published were invariably diverse geographically, I penned an aside to the editor explaining why my list only contained California restaurant, and including some fairly disparaging (though accurate) comments about the sorry state of Chinese food in New York.  To my initial horror, the Asia Society editor published not only the top 10 listing, but also my explanation of why all the restaurants were in California.  Well, the internet immediately blew up, with New Yorkers incensed at having their Chinese food insulted.  My name was mud on restaurant message boards such as Mouthfuls and Chowhounds, though a few brave California partisans defended my point of view.  Indeed, the furor was so great that I didn't bother following any of the aftermath.  Consequently, it wasn't until two years later when I sat down to meet with the editor, Tahiat Mahboob, at the Asia Society offices on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that I learned how wide the readership of that article was, including 3,000 Facebook likes and 300 tweets, including one by New York Times editor Sam Sifton.

All the publicity led to invitations to regularly write about Chinese food, answering random requests for Chinese dining recommendations, and an appearance in the movie The Search for General Tso. A year later, another biographical profile, this time by Frank Shyong in the Los Angeles Times, who came across my name while searching restaurant message boards looking for Chinese restaurants to take his parents to eat, spread my story to even wider audiences.  Then ABC news came calling with its own interview, going so far as to say they were also dispatching a Good Morning America television crew to do an in-person interview.  Unfortunately, in this post-9/11 world I knew that I would need to get clearance from the building management in the Century City office building I was working in, and by the time the film crew and building management had worked out the details (including insurance coverage), the window for the interview had closed.

There are a number of indications that I'm still a "Z" list celebrity even four years after Clarissa Wei's article.  I have "acting" credit listings on "The Numbers" website and the New York Times film credit database for my appearance in the Search For General Tso food documentary. Attending screenings for the General Tso movie at the Tribeca  Film Festival and in Hollywood, I was introduced in the post-screening discussion as a special guest in the audience.  And on both occasions I was approached by numerous attendees after the discussion wrapped up.  Oh and I do have people I refer to as my “agent” (Judy Isozaki), my “business manager" (Gordon Chow) and my “publicist” (Linda K).  But since I’ve never earned anything from being a Z list celebrity, their percentage of zero is zero.

I occasionally receive random media interview requests, including two in New York earlier this year from people who figured out I was in their town based on my current tweets.  I was twice asked by the same reality cooking show to be a guest cook on the show, premised on food critics presumably making themselves look silly by preparing their favorite restaurant dishes.   Another time, after a live presentation on Chinese food at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, a member of the audience came up to me and asked if he could pay me to speak at a family reunion. And even at work, when we had a department meeting in Washington DC, and a new hire in the DC office was introduced, when some of the other attendees asked me about any new developments in my eating career, the new hire said "Oh, you're the guy I read about!"   I was even referred to as a "guest star" in a comment about one of the interviews I gave earlier this year.

But the primary indication of borderline celebrity is that on a handful of occasions I have been approached by strangers who have read about me or seen the General Tso movie.  Some people assume this happens all the time, but in fact these encounters have been particularly surprising to me. While I know a lot of people have heard about the crazy lawyer who's eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants (now approaching 7,000 restaurants), I'm quite sure only a small percentage of them remember my name or know what I look like.  So to be at the same place and same time as one of these people, and have them both recognize and approach me spontaneously, is something that I wouldn't expect to happen. So to Sherwin Goo, Nate Gray, Jason Silletti, Vince Wong, Joe from Chubby Rice Restaurant in Hawthorne, CA, and Louise Yang, a tip of the hat for putting me on the "Z" list.