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Korean Barbeque Lovers

I grew up eating meals in the kitchens of my Korean friends and frequenting Woo Lae Oak for birthday parties and Father’s Day (that would be the original Woo Lae Oak on Western and Wilshire thank you very much–none of this BH/Soho b.s.).  

When I moved to Oakland in 2006 I was happy to find an abundance of Korean barbeque in the city.  The first one I ever visited (and a favorite to this day) was Sahn Maru.  It’s kind of like eating at your Korean grandmother’s house.  Great seafood pancake, amazing spicy pork bulgogi (perhaps my favorite ever), and kind service.  No barbeque-ing at the tables there though, and frankly, I don’t miss it.  Who needs to get all smoky and pay to cook their own dinner?  Not I.

sahn-maruThe humble decor isn’t the draw here, but it’s comfy.  And anyway, the price of upscale decor in Korean restaurants often amounts to being forced to listen to house music or mid-90’s “down-tempo” grooves for your entire meal. 

Another favorite is Ohgane.  Newer, sleeker, and larger than Sahn Maru, I find Ohgane to be a nice place to go just to mix things up a little.  It’s also a bit livelier than Sahn Maru if you’re looking for more of a night-out-on-the-town type place.  I love the thinly sliced radish they bring with the lettuce leaves here. 

Finally there is Jong Ga House.  Before it was A Rockridge Life, it was a Grand Lake Life, and Jong Ga was right around the corner.  This place has funky decor and a bar, which up the kitsch factor.  My favorite part of Jong Ga is the cold and spicy noodle soup offered gratis while you wait for your order.  

I’m trying to get up the nerve to bring the bulgogi home tonight and make my own.  I’ve looked at a few recipes, and it doesn’t look too hard, though I don’t know how close I’ll get in terms of authenticity.  Here are three recipes I’m considering. 

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T.G.I.F. Part II

After the wardrobe issue was cleared up, Mrs. B and I went for a drive through Oakland.  She was a licensed driver up until a few months ago, and losing her freedom of transportation has been rough.  Given that she had been cooped up in her house stressing all week I convinced her to let me take her out for a drive.  

Our first stop was Fenton’s on Piedmont Avenue.

Mrs. B and I decided that since her problem was losing weight and mine was gaining weight that she would get a vanilla ice cream cone and I would get a diet coke.  Deal.

Then we drove down Pleasant Valley Road, over the hill to Lakeshore Drive, and all the way around Grand Lake.  Mrs. B told me stories of what Oakland was like when she moved here in the 40s and how much it had changed.  She noted each church we passed, and of the Baptist ones which ones she and her church, which is in East Oakland, associate with.

We drove across town on MacArther and up Telegraph.  We were on our way to the Colonel’s, (as both my father and Mrs. B refer to Kentucky Fried Chicken, the old fashioned way).  Mrs. B likes to indulge in dinner from the Colonel when she’s not feeling too well.  She only likes the chicken at the location on Telegraph in the 60s, they make the best chicken there, and she only likes thighs.  No coleslaw, her teeth can’t handle it.  Mashed potatoes, yes.

We were passing Bakesale Betty’s on the corner of 51st when Mrs. B remarked that she had always wanted to try their chicken. Mrs. B and her daughter had noticed the line out the door at midday and loved the concept of the ironing board tables (they thought, “hey, we can open a business with ironing boards for tables!” and rightly so).

The line out the door

The ironing board “tables”

We stopped and got Mrs. B a sandwich.  I had reservations about doing so.  Bakesale Betty isn’t authentic when talking fried chicken with a ninety-three year old African American lady who moved to Oakland in the 40s from New Orleans.  But Mrs. B said, “hey! I like trying new things at my age too!” So I got her the sandwich and we drove home.

I told Mrs. B to call me later and let me know her thoughts on the sandwich.  I got a call around 6:30PM:

“Hi Darlin!” Hi Mrs. B! How do you like your sandwich? “Well you know, I don’t like breasts. I only like thighs. I know Mrs. B, I’m sorry, they only make breasts there. Well I only like thighs but I’m eating it and enjoying it! I’m sorry Mrs. B! “Don’t worry about it Darlin! I appreciate you! Call me when you wake up in the morning. OK, talk to you in the morning Mrs. B.

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T.G.I.F. Part I

Last week was a long, hard one for me, so when I was done teaching on Friday I felt less exuberant than worn down, worn out, and worn left and right.  I thought I had to do something for me.  

I got home and remembered I had to go next door to Mrs. B’s to pick up my ticket for her big church event on Saturday: the church’s 65th anniversary celebration.  Mrs. B is my ninety-three year old next door neighbor.  

When I got over to Mrs. B’s I found her in quite a state.  She is highly functional, both physically and mentally, for her age but she was in a state.  She has been REALLY worried about the event on Saturday.  There had been some confusion regarding the tickets and the seating arrangement at her table, and though it’s illogical, Mrs. B was so stressed out she hadn’t barely slept all week.  

I had promised Mrs. B that I would bring over the dress I planned to wear so that she could approve it.  She wanted someone to talk to about clothing since her daughter who would usually come up from Stockton and spend the night before an event like this had to stay home for an event in Stockton on Friday.  I was planning on wearing a vintage Carolina Herrera dress: black with a white upper bodice and big collar.  Very Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s kind of a vibe.  A nice column design, with the collar for flare and a hem that hits below the knee–how could I go wrong?  I had originally bought the dress to become a godmother, and I thought it was perfect.  

When I brought it to Mrs. B she said “do you have anything with longer sleeves?  It’s semi-formal, but you don’t have to dress that fancy.”  I told her no problem and ran home to get something else.  Thank goodness I had the sense seek her approval.

I brought over a cream colored long-sleeved silk blouse and a black skirt.  She said, “do you have anything…[long pause] with more color?”  Mrs. B was planning to wear a red suit.  Now, being the faux-New Yorker that I am, my wardrobe is mostly made up of black, with a splash of gray, navy blue, and cream thrown in for good measure.  I own a pair of hot pink Fendi flats but that’s about it.  So I said, “maybe I could wear a suit?”  This seemed to meet with approval.  I told Mrs. B that the only skirt suit (knowing that pants were NOT OK) I owned was cotton, and therefore less formal.  She said that was OK and told me to go get the suit.

The navy blue cotton suit it was.  Mrs. B approved, and reminded me to wear hose.  (I hate hose, don’t own “hose” and only ever occasionally wear opaque black tights).  

Wardrobe: check.

Note to self: channelling a high-class hooker character when making wardrobe choices may fly in the Episcopal church but has no place, however iconic, in a Southern Baptist church’s 65th anniversary celebration.  As Mrs. B’s granddaughter (who is a good decade older than me) would tell me the following day, “it’s a cultural thing.” 

This was more the look of the day:

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