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合歡山下雪,我們家也下雪 January 24, 2016

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01/23/2015, Great Falls, Virginia

01/23/2015, Great Falls, Virginia. We had about 24“ over 36 hours.

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Snow started at 1 pm Friday afternoon. Snow stopped at 10 pm Saturday evening.

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QTea Cafe, Fairfax City, VA October 27, 2015

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Saw this relatively new Chinese restaurant near the H Mart Korean Supermarket inFairfax City the other day.

The type of food it services is not too dissimilar to that from Bubble Tea in Rockville in Maryland. Of particular interest to me is the deep fried chicken nuggets with Chinese basil. We decided to compare

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the two.

We also ordered braised pork belly meat on rice too. For appetizer, we had deep fried tofu.

We were somewhat disappointed because:
1.  The deep fried chicken nuggets, although tender and tasty, weren’t spicy at all and they could use more basil too.
2.   The restaurant was too cold to enjoy the meal and the food got cold fast.
3.    The ground pork sauce over rice was too light compared to what’s commonly served in Taiwan.
4.    Tofu needed to stay in the deep frier a bit longer.
5.    We didn’t enjoy the pork belly meat because it wans’t properly seasoned.

Prices were reasonable and the staff was nice too.

Ozzie’s Good Eat, Fairfax Corner, Virginia September 7, 2015

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This is a new restaurant at a relatively new shopping center. The shopping center is located near the government center of the Fairfax County, Virginia.

The shopping center took a while to build up to what it is now. It is quite small as far as shopping center/town center is concern. And Ozzie’s is a new entrant but it catches our attention because of its bright exterior.

The food isn’t very special but it is easy to accept because it offers regular, every day dishes at a reasonable price.

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Native Foods, Falls Church, Virginia August 17, 2015

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Out of curiosity we came to this restaurant and see what it was about. Well, I didn’t know it was a vegan restaurant until it was too late. If you are not into vegan, please avoid it.

Apparently, it has two  other locations in DC. The Falls Church location is the only one in the state of Virginia.

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Guacamole was great but I had a lot better salsa before. Chips were good but we need more of it for the price we paid.

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Don’t bother to try this. It was bad: lousy presentation, bad combination, too much beans and the sauce was terrible. It was way too over-priced. Stay away.

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Viet Festival, Tysons Corner Shopping Center, VA August 16, 2015

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We saw the display about the 3-day Viet Festival at Tysons Corner SC as we walked out of the shopping center after our dinner at T.G.I.F. the other night and decided to come by Saturday for some Vietnamese food and joyful festivity.

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I believe it is the first time ever that a festival of this nature was held here at the new Plaza of the popular Tysons corner SC. It started on Friday and will continue until Sunday evening. The sign did say 4th annual Viet Fest but I didn’t know where the festival was held before.

The sun was out but it was a bit hot. Temperature was in the high 80’s in the early afternoon.  Lots of people got to the Plaza earlier than we did and a crowd has already gathered before we arrived.

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They were getting ready for the big show which reminded me of what my son used to do when he was with 峨眉武術。

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Some of these food vendors have already started serving customers when we got thereat 11 am。

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We met Sang Yi at the festival and chatted with him for a while. I asked him about Virginia tilting towards blue in recent years and his candidacy as a Republican representative. He is a Korean and seeks to represent district 37 which is basically central Fairfax County; he told me.

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She’s the host of the ceremony. We also saw Maryland Live everywhere because it was the official sponsor.

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The young lady was leading the lion dance teams to the main stage.

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There was no doubt that it was a hot day. Temperature must be near 100 by the grill. See the turkey legs? Haven’t had it for years. I bet my kids remember it too.

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The main stage where they had the official ceremony.

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There were a lion dance, line up of gentlemen in uniforms and ladies in Vietnamese costume, an official ceremony which was interrupted by power outage on the stage, political election booths, volunteer organizations, Vietnamese cultural organizations and food stands. Oh, there was the presence of Maryland Live, a casino about 35 miles away on I-95 between Baltimore and Washington DC, everywhere we go. It appeared to me that the festival was sponsored by Maryland Live which makes sense because casinos desperately need Asians to survive.

It was fun and we came across an interesting food that we haven’t had for many years: turkey leg. It was well seasoned and it reminded us the good old days when we were in Carrollton and Plano, Texas. We used to take kids to Texas Fair which was held at the Cotton Ball stadium every September. One of the items we always get was Turkey leg.

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Time passed by quickly but we still remember those days when we roamed the Texas Fair ground walking from one building to the next and trying out various kinds of food.

Norstrom Cafe, Tysons Corner May 29, 2015

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This cozy Cafe is hidden in a corner of the Norstrom Department store at Tysons Shopping Center in Northern Virginia. You can Find it on the first floor near ladys’ shoes section.

We have been to this Cafe for years and like it very much. It offers cafeteria style service, relaxing atmosphere, attentive service, house wines, high quality coffee, beautiful desserts and excellent food. Its prices are comprarable to those at other restaurants in the Tysons area. A reasonable tip is still expected though. I wish it opens till the mall closes at 9:30  though.

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That's a lot of foid. The chicken was tender and juicy with a good amount of spice too. Love it.

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With a glass of wine and a cup of coffee, the bill was about $50.

Hai Duong, Eden Center Falls Church May 13, 2010

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Pick-a-Restaurant is back. This time it was a Vietnamese restaurant called Hai Duong, a city in North Vietnam. Hai Duong means 海陽市 in northern Vietnam.

Vietnamese Egg Rolls with fish sauce

Didn’t like the egg roll. Although the skin was crispy, the inside didn’t taste like Vietnamese egg roll.

Quail with rice

Quail was palatable but not as great. It wasn’t as good as the quail we had at the Vietnamese restaurant in the World Gate Shopping Center in Herndon,Virginia.

We won;t go back to this restaurant again. It was very busy when we were there on a Sunday afternoon though.

Euro Bistro – Herndon, Virginia – Thursday, June 18, 2009 June 20, 2009

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Euro Bistro – Herndon, Virginia – Thursday, June 18, 2009

Euro Bistro on Elden Street in the heart of Herndon has been a favorite of us since it first opened about 9 years ago. We spotted the restaurant shortly after it opened its door and visited it a couple of times before it was on anybody’s radar screen. The combination of small space of less than 10 tables, cozy atmosphere, personable services, good crowd, affordable wines, and outstanding food made this restaurant a pleasant place to have a quick lunch or a homey dinner of mostly Northern European food. Back then, the tall chef took time to greet his customers whenever he had a chance to get out of the kitchen. He would ask his guests whether they like the food or the wine. He would then dash into the kitchen and back to his job.

We then saw the restaurant received great praises on local newspapers and magazines. Many food critics piled on and recommended the restaurant. It was always busy when we visited the place and the quality of the food stayed pretty consistent over the years. Then the situation went down hill and hit the bottom yesterday when Maria and I went for a quick lunch.

About 4 or 5 years ago, Euro Bistro took over the space next door. The new space added about two times of its original seats. Ever since then, the restaurant wasn’t as busy as before. Service became hit or miss because, I think, it wasn’t staffed with qualified personnel. The quality of the food also decreased, albeit slowly. And we stopped going all together because Euro Bistro has lost its edge and there were many other new restaurants opening up in Reston Town Center and Fairfax.

Maria was off yesterday (Thursday, June 17, 2009) and I didn’t have to work either. I fasted since midnight Wednesday for a blood sample at 11:00 AM as a follow-up of my previous visit to doctor’s office three months ago. Coming out of the doctor’s office, we went to the bank and took care of business for our restaurant. By then, it was about 11:35 AM and I haven’t taken Percocet for 28 hours. I felt good and we were pretty hungry too.

We first drove around the K-Mart Shopping Center in Herndon trying to find a decent place. We were shocked to find out that there were up to 10 stores closed for good: a Japanese restaurant, a Salvadorian restaurant, a big Thai restaurant, a vacuum store, Gold Gym, Hard Time café, an Indian place, and a few others. We came up to Euro Bistro and decided to give it another chance since we haven’t been here for a long time.

The parking spaces in front of the restaurant were quite empty. There were only a few tables inside of the restaurant, a far cry from the hay days of the past we remembered. We walked into the restaurant and found out that it was practically empty about 20 minutes before noon: three or four tables of 2 tops among 40 tables or so in two dinning rooms. Where was the lunch crowd? The restaurant was supposed to be bustling with customers and waitress at this time. There was no office workers dressed in shirt and tie or skirt and high heels. All we had was some locals quietly having their lunch in a quiet restaurant. Well, Panera just opened a big restaurant in the shopping center. Five Guys has been there for about a year and half. We also have McDonald’s, a Chinese buffet, a Vietnamese Pho place, a Chinese restaurant, Virginia Kitchen, an Italian restaurant, and a pizza place, a place called Russian Gourmet, Popeye Chicken, Subway, and a few Latino restaurants. There were too many choices within the walking distance not to mention all the restaurants (at least 15 if not 20) in the Reston Town center about 3 miles away. Well, time is tough and it is not easy to get noticed in time of economic stress.

The female manager casually pointed to a 2-top against the wall not far from the entrance and signaled us to sit there. She then disappeared into the back station and worked on whatever she was about to do before we came in. No warm welcome! No customary greeting of something like “How are you today?” or “Is this okay with you?” or “I will be right with you.” It wasn’t that the restaurant was busy and they were short-handed and, if it was me, I would try my best to give my customers any seat they want in the house and make them welcomed and comfortable. Nope, we didn’t get any of that. We got a half-hearted showing of her arm which was like “take your seat and I would be there later when I got around to it.”

Well, I didn’t like that table. It was a 2-top against the wall in an empty dinning room. I happened to like to sit side-by-side with Maria when we have lunch or dinner. I walked to the inside dinning room where other customers were. I picked a 4-top and sit ourselves with our back facing the window because it was bright outside. She came back with menu and asked us what we like to drink. Maria asked for an iced tea and I said that I haven’t decided yet. She asked me if I wanted to see the wine list. I said yes. But it never came and I wasn’t sure what went wrong there. I asked for a glass of water instead.

By this time, I wasn’t very happy with my choice of restaurant but decided to stick around. We also decided not to order a lot of food like we used to in many restaurants we went to. No wine. No appetizers. No desserts. Just two dishes from the lunch menu and try our luck.

Three more customers showed up. They were old ladies in their 50’s. The busy girl showed them to their table close to ours. A food-runner also showed up whose primary job was apparently delivering food to the customers. The waitress/manager came back soon and asked for our orders. What, so fast? I barely had time to finish the lunch menu and there was another sheet of paper with about 20 to 25 dishes that I haven’t gotten around to yet. She was apparently trying to rush her customers, or maybe just us, out and getting ready for a busy lunch crowd later. But what was the hurry? I wanted to take my time and the restaurant wasn’t busy at all. By now, there were 9 customers including us.

We finally decided to order the following:

  1. An Austria or German dish of pork loin with ham, red pepper, onion, and mushrooms in Paprika Sauce for $11.45. Egg noodle in the shape of small dumplings (kind like garbanzo beans) called Spätzle came with the dish. I decided to try this dish because the Paprika sauce intrigued me.
  2. California Pizza with roasted bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, garlic, olives and mozzarella cheese for $8.95.

Some bread came first with whipped butter. I counted 4 small, thin slices in a bread basket. The whipped butter was full of flavor and easy to spread but the bread wasn’t good enough that you wanted to fight for the last piece in the bread basket. It was only slightly warm to the touch.

The Pork loin dish came first. Two slices of pork loin about 3” x 4” were first pounded into thin layer of about ¼” thick. It was then sautéed with other ingredients in a reddish sauce. The pork loin was good but the sauce wasn’t very special: bland, not spicy, tasted kind like light tomato sauce. Maria gave me a few bites while I was waiting for my pizza to come. Spätzle was warm, chewy but had little taste by itself. It would be good with the sauce though.

Well, the pizza finally came: at least 5 minutes late. This was a big no-no for any restaurant. It showed the lack of paying attention to the detail by the kitchen staff. I wasn’t sure what went on in the kitchen in the back but the dinning room manager should have noticed this too. But she was busy with the ladies.

The pizza looked very good: colorful, plenty of cheese, inviting and quite large for lunch; about 10”. I took a wedge and gave it a big bite. Wow! What kind of pizza dough was the crust made from? It was the worst pizza crust that I had ever had: it tasted like card board box, it had no holes; it was hard; it crumbled into chunks of dry flour in the mouth and it had no taste at all. I bet that the chef forgot to add baking soda or baking powder and salt when he made the dough. It could be even worse: he probably put some flour in the mixer, added some water and egg and made the dough after I placed the order! That was probably why it came out late. I gave up eating the pizza after one slice and lost any appetite for anything else.

By the time we finished paying for our lunches, the restaurant had a total of 13 customers at 12:20 PM. Our bill came to $23.27 and I gave a tip of $3.50.

What a huge disappointment! A great small restaurant ended up like this? I believed that it was on its last days unless something is done to change its image. For me, I would never go back to it again.

Bye-bye, Euro Bistro! You should have stayed small. Your rent would be more manageable. Your customers would have the image of a busy and cozy place. They would come back if they had to wait in line for a seat. The chef would not spread himself too thin. And most of all, it should replace the manager for sure.

Han Gang Korean Restaurant – Little River Turnpike, Annandale, Virginia May 29, 2009

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Han Gang Korean Restaurant – Little River Turnpike, Annandale, Virginia

Han Gang restaurant is new; it was about 4 months old when we visited it one evening in early April, 2009.

Han Gang restaurant is huge; the free-standing building is about 4,000 sq ft and the restaurant has more than 250 seats. It also has two private dinning rooms to the right of the front door which can accommodate 40 guests each. The front of the restaurant has a narrow but long rock garden completed with a pond, some koi or gold fish and plastic toys ducks and sail ship. It also has several underwater light of various colors in the water and in the rock garden.

Han Gang restaurant is nicely decorated inside; dark-color waist-height wood panels, modern ceiling and track lights, blue-colored walls with pictures of Korean scenery, black, shinning table tops and upholstery chairs, and decorative cases with multi-color glass balls hanging from the top. I particularly like the display near the cash register talking about the importance of Han Gang (Han River or 漢江 in Chinese) to Korean people throughout its long history.

But Han Gang Korean Restaurant is over-priced. It was about 10 – 20% more expensive than comparable Korean restaurants in the area. Its food wasn’t 10% or 20% better tasting nor was its portion 10 – 20% more. The higher prices were necessary probably because of the change over from the previous business to a restaurant with numerous venting and fire protection systems to accommodate table top BBQ cooking through out the restaurant.

We were trying to find a Korean restaurant for a later dinner. We drove along Columbia Pike and Little River Turnpike in Annandale but couldn’t find a restaurant that would stay open long at that time. We didn’t want to go to Yechon because we’ve been there too many times. As we drove up and down the Little River Turnpike, Jennifer spotted a restaurant that looked like a good place to eat. We arrived at the restaurant about 45 minutes before closing. The restaurant was quite empty with a couple of tables. After we sat down we were offered only 3 or 4 small dishes or panchan. I thought that was all we were going to get and was somewhat disappointed because good Panchan is essential to any respectable Korean restaurant. After we placed our order, more panchan came but they were the usual dishes we could get from other Korean restaurants.

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Our order included these dishes:

1. Dolsot Bibimbap – Seasoned vegetables, beef and egg over steamed rice in a hot stone bowl served with spicy mixing sauce. The rice wasn’t browned when it was served to us. I guess the chef wanted to go home bad.

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2. Go Deung-uh Gui – Grilled mackerel. Good presentation and nice taste. The menu says the fish is fresh. I am not sure it was though.

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3. Haemul Soon Dooboo Jjigae – The quintessential tofu stew with seafood, vegetables and egg. This dish wasn’t as good as the tofu stew at Lighthouse Tofu near K-Mart. The broth lacked that freshness taste that is so essential for this dish.

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4. Naeng Myun – Chilled buckwheat noodles topped with Asian pear, thin slices of beef brisket, cucumber, seasoned radish and boiled egg. This is a dish that we never had before. We were a little adventurous when we decided to try this dish; a favorite summer dish for Korean. The broth was refreshing and chill, very suitable for hot summer but not that much for an April evening. But, it wasn’t bad at all.

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We stayed a little over closing time and left the restaurant because we didn’t want to keep the waitress there any longer than necessary. The meal came to $92.08, about $15 to $20 more than a comparable restaurant. I don’t think I will go back to this one anytime soon.

A Trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia – February 3, 2009 February 7, 2009

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A Trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia – February 3, 2009

Forecast for last Tuesday was cloudy sky with intermittent rain and snow. Temperature would be in the mid 20’s for the high. A very gloomy day to say the least! Maria was scheduled to work on that day. I planned to stay home, sleep in and do some cooking in the afternoon. A Maria’s co-worker called Monday afternoon and asked her to switch Tuesday with Saturday. She asked me if this was okay and I said yes because Tuesday is my off day.

I got up around 8:30 AM and saw a clear sky with sunshine. So much for forecast! I called out to Maria and said “would you like to go out for a drive? We’ll have a picnic.” She thought I was crazy to have a picnic in the middle of winter. Well, we could have a picnic in the car.

I drag her out of the bed and cooked some breakfast for her. I then packed some goat cheese, roasted garlic hummus, Chianti red wine salami, tandoori garlic naan, cashew nuts, chips, carrots, a half bottle of Pinot Grigio and a couple of plastic glasses. We put on enough warm cloth and headed out to Route 7. She asked me where do we go? I said “Fredericksburg.” She didn’t know where it is. I told her it is between Richmond and Washington, about 60 miles from home. Although I had never been to Fredericksburg before, I had checked the Internet and knew that old downtown Fredericksburg is a nice neighborhood to take a leisure walk in the sunny afternoon and Central Park Shopping Center by I-95 is a huge shopping center where Maria may want to spend some time there..

We took Fairfax County Parkway and Route 123 to I-95. From there, it only took about 30 minutes to Fredericksburg. I relied on my memory to drive us to the old downtown area first. I was small and quite with only a few people on the street. I guess this was the wrong time to visit here. We checked our GPS and found a drug store called Goolricks which has been serving the area since 1869. I dropped Maria off and asked her to buy some soda from their soda fountain or something. She ended up buying a cup of chocolate milk shake for $4.50. It was a bit expensive but tasted smooth and creamy. We then drove around and saw a sign to Washington’s home when he was a teenager. We followed the sign but got lost near the edge of the town. We turned around and saw another sign to Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center. It was very close to old Town Fredericksburg and there is no admission fee to get in.

We entered the small museum and were greeted by an older gentleman who enthusiastically greeted us and gave us a map which showed four important battles between the Union and the Federation from 1862 to 1864. He also gave a map of the Sunken Road Walking Trail which started from the parking lot off the visitor center. We toured the wooden visitor center and saw some Civil War relics. We then took the walking tour along the Sunken Road, checked out the waist high rock wall constructed by the Federation army and viewed exhibits along the 1000 feet long trail. The sky was clear but covered by some clouds. The wind was brisk and we were cold even with the heavy coat. The small dirt road (12′ wide) was just like any other dirt road you would see in the country but I couldn’t help but thought about all the people (9000 soldiers according to the older gentleman) died along this small dirt road. The time was December 11 – 13, 1862. At one point, the Union Army soldiers attacked this wall for eight hours but wasn’t able to crack the line. It must be horrifying for those in the front line who had no protection against the well-protected Federation soldiers. It was so sad to visit places like this. But I guess war is part of human history stretching back thousands of years. And it is still going on in our days. On the other hand, war may be unavoidable and sometimes necessary judging by human instinct. Peace talk an only achieve that much.

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After the Sunken Road trail, we drove around the battle field along this 5-mile paved road in the woods. We drove to the end of this road and parked there to start our picnic. The road was not heavily traveled at all. We saw only five other cars: one stopped by to see the display, two others took their dogs for a walk, and two other cars didn’t even stop.
By this time, it was almost 3:30 in the afternoon. We were very hungry and quickly finished our cheese, salami, hummus, naan, carrots and wine.

From there, we went straight to the mall. The mall was huge; probably bigger than any mall in northern Virginia. It has 2.5 million square feet of retail space. The anchor stores include Shoppers, Target, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Khols, and Circuit City (in liquidation now). It also has probably 20 restaurants. We drove around and stopped at Circuit City but didn’t but anything. The restaurants were tempting but we just had our picnic. We decided to stopped by Ikea on the way home at Potomac Mills Mall. There we picked up some candies and cookies plus a few small items. We then drove all the way home to finish the day.

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