Have you ever had Mandarin Islamic Chinese food? Did you know there are an estimated 20 million Muslims who live in China? These questions percolated as my taste buds marveled at the unusual combinations of lamb, cumin and other spice mixtures that seemed so new to me. I was first taken to Old Mandarin Islamic by a mom on my son’s soccer team. It was a rainy fall day and the boys and spectators were soaked and chilled. The hot pot beckoned, and I was up for an adventure. Way out in the Sunset district in San Francisco near the beach, this small hole in the wall offers not only a unique culinary experience but a geography and culture lesson in Chinese history. I returned this Sunday to pick up takeout and once again I was blown away. Signs in Arabic welcome the diners as well as the Chinese Sabado Gigante-esque/ quasi American idol show playing in the corner on the big screen TV. Familiar was the standard Chinese restaurant decorations, but unusual were the plaques with sayings from the Koran (I assume). Of course there is no pork on the menu and the lamb is Halal. It seems like the whole family is cooking in the back kitchen and you can see them in action as you traipse through to go to the restroom. The hot pot is a fun diner participation dish, much like fondue or Korean BBQ. Continue reading »
Well, maybe I don’t actually “love” United Airlines, but for years I’ve been a loyal customer, choosing them over other airlines going to the same place, even, in some cases, when their flights weren’t as convenient as their competitors’. But my experience with them today has made me question my judgment.
It’s often the little things that make a difference. When I checked in online for my flight from San Francisco to Boston I discovered that the one bag I planned to check would cost me $15. I haven’t been living in a cave so I knew about the plans various airlines announced last year about charging for checked bags, but this was the first time the fee had been applied to me. “Nonrefundable,” the note on the computer screen said. “Forget it,” I muttered, figuring I’d wait until I got to the airport to decide whether to check or carry on. Continue reading »
If you talk to a French person and say you lived in Lille… most say “I’m sorry”. That was the reputation this gritty Northern manufacturing city had years ago. It is the fourth largest metropolis in France and sits at the crossroads between Belgium, Britain and France. My ex-husband was from a small town outside the city, and we lived there for a few years while I taught English (or American) to top execs from Renault, Auchan, Peugeot and various other big French companies. He had to work through his military service scenario and I thought why not—I spoke French, loved the culture and was ready for an adventure. There was tremendous charm to Lille, a great mix of Flemish and French culture. We often went to Bruges and Brussels, the North Sea and England. I was in love and didn’t realize how provincial France, outside of Paris, could be. Continue reading »
About six months ago I got a note in the mail about some long forgotten frequent flyer program miles expiring and I ordered Cookie Magazine – a newish glossy for ‘stylish’ moms. Sounded pretentious and I barely have time to read my mail, but I ordered it (it was free) and occasionally I find good or fun information. Yesterday, I read a brief article about Baby Moons; a pre- baby vacation for expectant parents. It is a tad irritating that there is a name for it, but I think all parents at least think about a last hurrah travel plan before baby changes your life. I know one couple who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, another who backpacked around India and yet another who opted for an all-inclusive pampering holiday in the Caribbean. It’s hard for me to think back that far, before my boys and their travel companionship, but I think my husband and I took a killer backpacking trip in the Sierras with 3 other couples. Whatever your fancy, the three destinations highlighted interested me… Iceland, Bermuda and Napa, California. I’ve been to Iceland and Napa and love both. For a true getaway, despite the fact that the country is in financial ruin, Iceland has an otherworldly quality. You feel utterly cleansed after a few days there; perhaps ready to be a parent.