Boulange de Cole Valley

I’m a chocoholic, especially dark chocolate. I still remember the solid swirl shaped chocolate nugget from my childhood’s China. Those were the only kind available no matter how rich you were (I guess since it is a communist community, no one was supposed to be really rich). I love chewing it piece by piece. It was pretty hard, so I couldn’t bite off too big a chunk anyway. The teeth mark left on the chocolate formed lovely shinny surfaces as if those polished jewel stone. They were very bitter.

Sunday afternoon, we finished watching another film in Red Vic and felt a little hungry for snacks. We turned off the bustling Haight Street, walked along Cole Street toward Cole Valley.

At the little corner cafe, we spotted some various flavored puffy cookies with fillings inside. The last time we saw those kind of cookies was in La Maison du Chocolat’s store in New York City. We remembered its lightness of the cookie and heavenly bitter chocolate cream inside. Without much hesitation, we ordered one of each to sample. The cookies weren’t as good as those we had from La Maison. But some of its novel flavors won me over nonetheless. The winners were: Lavender, Peanut Butter(or is it hazelnut? It is the kind that has sesame seeds on the outside), Strawberry, and Raspberry. The other two–chocolate, lemon–are too heavy and sweet.

Afterwards, I got curious, and started researching its name and origin. Turned out they are called French Macaroon. At the cafe, we also ordered another piece of pastry, which turned out to be soaked with rum! yum! Google tells me it is called French Brioche.

Some reference articles if you are interested in further reading:
The Macaroon – A Mouthful of Heaven
Boulange de Cole Valley & Cole Valley Neighborhood
Elegant French brioche fills any need

Empty City

When I think of the word “city”, I think of crowd, neon signs, late night eateries, traffic in the middle of the night, noises, sirens in the early morning hour, dirty back alleys, and deep sighs that buses make at busstop before day break.

Based on this definition, many so-called “cities” in the US are not really cities. The only one I knew would be Detroit, where people “poured” out into neighboring suburbs after business hour. It is dead after day light departs.

Now I know of another, San Jose.

People who build these kind of cities must have a different set of definition. They install shinny office buildings, wide avenues, palm trees, restaurants, and bars. But it still feels dead, because there is no clutter. Too clean, too empty, too spacious. Like modeled homes. Good looking but not lived, and so not alive.

Curiously enough, it reminded me of another blog i wrote earlier on Santana Row: An Evening in the City-Wanna-Be. They are so similar. I guess maybe that’s the style of San Jose as a whole. Maybe it is the style of many American cities. Maybe one day we will feel nostalgic for cities like these? Who knows.

Where Wild Flowers Bloom…

Spring is finally here in the Bay Area. Rainy season has dropped its curtain, the hills are still green. Wild flowers bloom. We went on two hikes in April, both presented some views of California Golden Poppies. They weren’t as spectacular as we hoped, but lovely sunshine under a blue sky never hurts.

Before we know it, the hills would switch on their summer attair – the dry brown grassy look. Right now, we could still enjoy rolling hills in Spring fashion: all shades of green.


Two Hikes: Edgewood County Reserve & Mission Peak

battlepanda on “yellow fever”

I discovered battlepanda through her comments on an expat’s blog. The expat is living in China and he likes to write long-winded critiques on news related to China. Battlepanda’s comment was far far better writen than that expat’s post, which i couldn’t finish cuz its bias and lousy argument. Here is another cool article by battlepanda, a different view on “yellow fever”. Nordic fetishists prefer blondes

The Success and Failure of Picasso

During my first trip to Europe in late 1990’s, I fell in love with impressionist and Picasso. Came back to the states, I feverishly scouted bookstore after bookstore, hoping to find a biography on Picasso that will quench my thirst of information. A friend recommended John Berger’s “The Success and Failure of Picasso”, saying, “It is the best book I’ve ever read.”

I picked it up, among the Picasso reprint books and biographies I carried out of the bookstore.

All I remembered from that reading experience was that it was exceptionally well-written. I wasn’t satisfied with the book itself because at the time, I was thirsty for facts and events that had happened to the great painter. I was not ready for such a thorough critique of the master’s work. Not yet.

Recently I’ve been spending lots of time on a new Chinese website: It is a book review centric social networkish website. There dotann, my trust-worthy fellow book lover , recommended two books by John Berger: “Way of Seeing” and “About Looking.” Her review sparked my interest again, and I dug up my own copy of “The Success and Failure of Picasso”, the only John Berger book I’ve ever read.

I started re-reading “The Success and Failure of Picasso” late last night, and couldn’t bear to put it down. Such excellent art critique! I wish I could spend the next 24 hours reading this non-stop, what a feast to the mind!

In Preface, regarding Picasso’s Self-Portrait, 1906:

“Painting is the art which reminds us that time and the visible come into being together, as a pair. The place of their coming into being is the human mind, which can coordinate events into a time sequence and appearances into a world seen. With this coming into being of time and the visible, a dialogue between presence and absence begins. We all live this dialogue.

“Consider Picasso’s Self-Portrait, of 1906. What is happening in this painting? Why can this apparently uneventful images move us so deeply?

“The young man’s expression – not untypical for a man of twenty-five – is solitary, attentive, and searching. It is an expression in which loss and waiting combine. yet this is at the level of literature.

“What is happening plastically? The head and body are pressing towards the visible, are searching for a perceptible form, and have not fully found it. They are just at the point of finding it, of alighting on it – like a bird on a roof. The image is moving because it represents a presence striving to beome seen.”

More quotes that I liked, so far:

For Picasso, what he is is far more important than what he does.

The creative spirit, genius as a state of being was celebrated as an end in itself because it alone did not have a price and was unbuyable.

Exile is a state which, in its subjective effects, never stands still: you either feel increasingly exiled as time passes, or increasingly absorbed by your adopted country.

It is – by a paradox – the loneliness of self-sufficiency.

I’m still in chapter 1, page 23/215. Berger is picking Spanish history apart, bit by bit, to demonstrate where Picasso’s spirit came from. Fascinating stuff, i’m telling ya! The book also has many Picasso’s famous paintings in black and white.

I have a feeling that this re-read will present itself as a wonderful lesson, not just on Picasso, but on modern European history/society and of course, art.


This is fascinating!
What do we know about tipping?

– Tipping is less prevalent in countries where unease about inequality is especially strong.

– The more a culture values status and prestige, the more likely that culture will use tipping to reward service.

– Tips are higher in sunny weather.

– Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress’s tips by 18 percent but decreases a waiter’s tips by 9 percent.

Osmanthus – Fragrance From China

Osmanthus was a flower that mom often dreamed of having in our backyard. Its smell was distinctly Chinese. In mom��s memory, it was always connected with her hometown in Southern China.

A few years back, mom found the plant from a nursery in the south, ran by a Chinese gardener. She bought it on the spot, held it in her lap all the way home, afraid of breaking a branch, planted in our back yard. Nothing happened during the first couple of years. Then, it started blooming in an autumn night of 2003.

I still remember that night when I got home, mom told me to stand by our patio where chayote vines had climbed all over. It was the spot where she last smelled our osmanthus. I obediently stood at the exact spot where mom has appointed, under the moonlight, hoped to experience this legendary fragrance that I had heard so much about, and which I has never known growing up in northern China. After ten minutes of enjoying the hearty smell of matured chayote on the vine, I smelled nothing resembled floral. Given up, I wondered around the backyard, on my way back to the garage door, below our wind chime, a breeze passed me by, and there it was, a smell I could never forget again. It was delicate, warm, light, and with a tiny bit of sweetness. Osmanthus.

“Osmanthus aroma has to be sought.” Mom said. She was right. In ancient Chinese poetry, there were all kinds of verses describing this phenomenon. Going to the mountains in an autumn night was considered a poetic adventure, “Mountain temple, Amidst moonlight, seeking osmanthus.” A fragrance that drifts. If you stood in front of the blooming plant and firmly planting your nose into the bloom, you would smell a version of the fragrance, but it never smelled quite as good as when you catch it in a passing breeze. The fragrance seems to reach its full “body” when in flight…

Here is an article that analyzed in very detailed chemistry formula the molecule contents of osmanthus aroma: Osmanthus

The following are descriptions of a number of perfumes that are ‘reputed’ to contain osmanthus.

Cassini (Oleg Cassini) 1979 – Chypre-Fruity floral
Top Notes: Mandarin, freesia, osmanthus
Heart Notes: Jasmine, Bulgarian rose, tuberose, chrysanthemum, carnation
Base Notes: Mousse de chene, amber, oakmoss

Desirade (Aubusson) 1990 – Floral Semi-Oriental
Top Notes: Italian bergamot, Russian coriander, Madagascar ylang-ylang, pineapple, aldehydes
Heart Notes: Chinese osmanthus, jasmine, rose, cassia, tuberose, orange blossom, violet
Base Notes: Sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, Somalian opopanax, plum, raspberry, vanilla, musk

Destiny (Marilyn Miglin) 1990 – Floral-Fresh
Notes: Calla lilies, white rose, fo-ti-tieng, osmanthus, karo karunde, white orchid, narcissus

DNA (Bijan) 1993 – Floral-Ambery
Top Notes: Rosewood, minty geranium, ylang-ylang, bergamot
Heart Notes: Jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, clove, osmanthus
Base Notes: Myrrh, oakmoss, sandalwood, vetiver, vanilla, benzoin, amber

Elysium (Clarins) 1993 – Floral-Fruity
Top Notes: Jasmine, honeydew, ylang-ylang, dewberry, linden blossom
Heart Notes: Lily of the valley, freesia, rose, osmanthus
Base Notes: Sandalwood, papaya, musk, cedarwood

Histoire D’Amour (Aubusson) 1984 – Chypre-Floral
Top Notes: Mandarin, bergamot, basil, osmanthus
Heart Notes: Jasmine, rose, narcissus, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, galbanum
Base Notes: Oakmoss, musk, patchouli

Il Bacio (Marcella Borghese) 1993 – Floral-Fruity
Top Notes: Honeysuckle, rose, jasmine, freesia, orchid, lily of the valley
Heart Notes: Peach, plum, melon, passion fruit, pear, osmanthus, iris
Base Notes: Amber, sandalwood, violet, musk, cedarwood

La Prairie – Floral-Fruity
Top Notes: Bulgarian rose, honeysuckle, peach, tagetes, osmanthus, peony, violet leaves
Heart Notes: Orange blossom, peach, plum, tuberose, heliotrope, rose
Base Notes: Sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, patchouli, musk, cedarwood

Oh La La! (Azzaro) 1993 – Oriental
Top Notes: Raspberry, peach, mandarin, bergamot, fig leaves, muscat grape
Heart Notes: Yellow rose, jasmine, narcissus, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, osmanthus
Base Notes: Cinnamon, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, patchouli, tonka bean

1000 (Jean Patou) 1972 – Floral
Top Notes: Greens, bergamot, anjelica, coriander, tarragon
Heart Notes: Chinese osmanthus, jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, violet, iris, geranium
Base Notes: Vetiver, patchouli, moss, sandalwood, amber, musk, civet

Sunflowers for Women by Elizabeth Arden – 1993
Elizabeth Arden introduced Sunflowers in 1993 as a response to the push on natural products. Arden calls it a ��prestige fragrance without prestige pricing��. This is a fruity, floral scent for the everyday adventures.
Top Notes: bergamot, melon, peach
Middle Notes: cyclamen, osmanthus, jasmine, tea rose
Base Notes: sandalwood, moss, musk

Realities (Liz Claiborne ) 1990- Fresh, Oriental
Introduced in 1990 by American sportswear designer Liz Claiborne, Realities was her second fragrance launch. A Claiborne spokesperson says that ‘Realities celebrates the intimacy and reality of a woman’s life as she and her family truly live it. This fresh, oriental fragrance has notes of bergamot, chamomile, sage, osmanthus, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, white lily, carnation, freesia, vanilla, amber, sandalwood and peach.

Escape by Calvin Klein 1991
Calvin Klein introduced Escape in Fall of 1991. It was created to reflect a woman’s deepest passions and desires to escape the boundaries of everyday life and discover romance and adventure, uninhibited.
This fresh fruity floral is a blend of ingredients from all over the world. It opens with chamomile, apple, lichee, tagette, coriander, hyacinth, black currant, ylang-ylang and mandarin nuances. At its heart are rose, osmanthus, plum, peach, muguet, clove, jasmine and carnation followed by a base of musk, sandalwood, tonka and vetiver.

Chaumet by Chaumet (1999)
Top Note: Green ivy, freesia, citrus fruits
Middle Note: Tea flower, jasmine, osmanthus
Base Note: White musks, sandalwood, cedarwood

Ultraviolet 1999 – is a spicy floral oriental scent.
The top notes include fresh capsicum, a heart of Japanese osmanthus and a base of vanilla and gray amber. The perfume was launched in Europe before entering the U.S. in early February 2000 through the Dallas division of Dillard Department Stores.

I think osmanthus is getting popular nowadays. It might has something to do with the sudden obsession with anything Chinese in recent fashion world. Here is another article i found on-line, regarding a perfume made by a little London Perfumary.Ormonde Jayne Osmanthus

The Different Company also makes a perfume that is just called, Osmanthus. 🙂

Fragments of Thought

Path/Tango Gelato
We discovered it by accident, but the long line out of the door made us curious. We were hungry when we first came here, so we ordered hot sandwich. But everyone else in line ordered their gelato! The only gelato that might deserve such love was Italian Gelato, which I heard from my sister. Instinctively I asked her whether she knew of this little place? Maybe it is another classic Italian Gelato source in SF? But sister’s answer was inconclusive. She has never heard of it. And I did also wonder about the ‘tango’ part of their name. Why Tango? That doesn’t sound very Italian, does it?

Mystery solved! What Tango Gelato serves is Argentina Ice Cream, supposedly to be extra creamy!

Buenos Aires
“Good Air”. I prefer it’s Chinese name “Bu-yi-nuo-si-ai-li-si”, it sounded more like how the place makes me feel, someplace so far away, as if it is the end of the earth. I’ve never been there, but have met plenty of people who has and have read plenty from people’s travels, novels, and poetry. A place that is filled with romance, sorrow, death, and mystery. Unfulfilled desire, unanswered dreams.

Spent one night at mom’s house this weekend and read some old diaries by me. One entry was a detailed dream where I lived, worked, loved, and struggled in Buenos Aires. Fascinating, as if the live that I would have lived in a parallel universe. As detailed as Sunday farmer’s market by the pier, and the smell of sea and rotten fish invaded “my” apartment then.

A place I might never visit, but have been there so often in my dreams. Heart’s desire.

Grand Thief of Cars
Nicolas Cage’s heart’s desire must be racing and wrecking expensive cars. Watched “Gone in 60 Seconds” over the weekend. Pure entertainment. Cage looked happiest when mischief was conducted with style and passion. Simplicity is moving, sometimes.

Simple Pleasure of a Monday Morning
– Happy cats lying about in the sunlight, rolling on the floor, perched on the breakfast table, watching me making coffee.

– Many fluffy white clouds formed dramatic shapes on the horizon. Sky is blue. Air is crisp and cleansed by the storm of last night. Rain drops on the windshield reflecting tiny rainbows.

– Poetry and instrumental music blasted out of the radio as my car, bathed in the brilliant sunlight, zoomed south on the highway. Oh, yeah, and Mozart.

Life is beautiful. Indead.