Photo dump from summer 2023

Today’s the last day of the last full month of summer, and I figured it would be a good time to share some of my miscellaneous photographs from the past three months that haven’t made it on my website yet. I always find it really funny when people post “photo dumps” on social media and it’s only two or three pictures, so this is going to be a real photo dump.

One of the things I like to do is to park on the top floor of a parking garage so I can go to the edge and take a nice picture of the view. Here’s Glendale, California.

Here’s an Italian restaurant I went to with my friend Eric Morino, better known online as Pointcrow. Apparently every waiter and waitress was also an opera singer, and they literally took turns singing to everyone during our meal. It was very … interesting.

I went to visit my friend Doug Wreden and he asked me what I wanted to watch on YouTube. I told him I was indifferent, so he made a decision instead.

As you can see, I am clearly an expert at arcades.

Hello, rabbit.

I recently had tableside guac for the first time. It never occurred to me what exactly the “tableside” was supposed to mean, but it soon became very clear that they literally bring the ingredients out and make the guacamole beside your table. Our waitress seemed to just indiscriminately randomly throw in ingredients without measuring anything or adjusting for taste. This was also very … interesting.

One of my friends came into town for a convention in Las Vegas, and while she was here, she wanted to try a popular breakfast spot called BabyStacks. I ordered velvet pancakes and they served me four meals’ worth of pancakes and sugar on one plate.

Hello, cat.

During a quick visit to downtown Los Angeles, I joined a friend and her cousin for all-you-can-eat sushi at Hello Fish. Apparently they’re a fairly popular restaurant in Koreatown—their slogan is “feed me sushi and tell me I’m pretty.” I would’ve normally done a dedicated blog post for a restaurant like this, but un­fortunately, they just had very dim and very pink lighting, so my photos did not come out very well. Here are three of the nicer ones.

Afterwards, we went to get shaved ice for dessert.

Here are some views from my hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It made me miss my days of luxury high-rise living on the Las Vegas Strip.




Hello, Boom Bang Fine Foods & Cocktails in Henderson, Nevada

I’m about to go on a lengthy chain of back-to-back travel, so before I leave, I decided to meet up with a friend and get some food at Boom Bang Fine Foods & Cocktails in Henderson of the Las Vegas Valley in Nevada.

For my appetizer, I ordered the waitress’ recommendation of mushroom tart. Instead, I received wild Rhode Island squid and capers with a side of house­made tartar sauce and chipotle marinara. I like calamari so I didn’t mind the mix-up; when I let our waitress know, she said that the buttons for the ca­la­ma­ri and mushroom tart were right next to each other, so the wrong dish was put into the order. She offered to give me a complimentary mushroom tart for the error.

The calamari was decent. I liked the squid a lot, but the breading was a bit intense in some areas, and it was somewhat over-fried. My dinner companion is not much of a fish and seafood person, so I ended up finishing the entire plate on my own.

For his appetizer, my friend ordered corn dogs made from artisan frankfurter and Boom Bang’s “best batter ever,” with a side of ketchup and Boom Bang mustard sauce.

Shortly afterwards, my second appetizer came out—the complimentary mushroom tart that was previously promised. It came with wild and cultivated mushrooms, goat cheese mousse, and verjus. The mushrooms were great and the tart was nice and flakey, but the goat cheese smelled like vomit and made the whole dish pretty unpleasant. … I still finished the entire thing anyway, though I scraped off most of the cheese.

My friend ordered the daily special for his main entrée—14 oz. Cedar River ribeye with bordelaise sauce, truffled French fries, and roasted tomato.

For my entrée, I decided to do something a bit unusual—I decided to order the “small action” seafood plateau, which is usually ordered by a table as a shared platter of appetizers, but I instead chose to have it as my dinner. It came in a hilariously large plate, and everything was kept chilled atop a bed of ice.

First was some tuna tartare, seasoned with whiskey barrel-aged soy sauce, sesame, and avocado, and a side of baguette croutons. I found it funny that they called it tartare, as that is usually a term used for non-fish dishes. The tuna was exactly what I expected from good-quality tuna, but there was also noth­ing particularly stellar about it—it basically tasted like I was just eating a premium tuna poke bowl.

The plateau also came with Oiishi shrimp and a side of Mexican cocktail sauce. The shrimp was incredibly satisfying—it had lots of rich flavor, each one was very large, and its texture had just the right balance of tender and firm.

Third was hamachi aguachile seasoned and served with avocado, serrano, pickled red onion, and cilantro. Notably missing from my serving was the av­o­ca­do, which was instead substituted with cucumber. The yellowtail also did not actually resemble the flavor of yellowtail, though whatever fish it was, it tasted good. The dish as a whole was a bit too sour for my preference, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as other aguachile or ceviche dishes I’ve had.

And finally, a seafood platter would not be complete without oysters. I received half a dozen oysters, three of which were East Coast oysters. They tasted like normal, good oysters.

I also received three West Coast oysters, which were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had. The West Coast oysters had a mysteriously high intensity of deep, delicious oyster flavor, so much so that it was almost as if additional oyster flavoring had been injected into them. Each bite extracted more and more juices, repeatedly covering my tongue and replenishing the flavor until there was nothing left of the oysters but bolus. To be clear, I have had plenty of West Coast oysters before, and they weren’t all like this, so there were definitely something special about the ones from this restaurant.

Considering that I was getting a lot of seafood, I also ordered a side of truffle French fries to balance things out. I prefer my French fries to be a bit on the underfried and thicker side, but I still enjoyed these.

At this point, I had finished a full portion of two appetizers plus a large seafood platter and some fries, so I was pretty much at my limit for food. How­ever, my friend still had room for dessert, so he ordered pavlova with crisp meringue, Bavarian cream, and fresh berries. I tried one bite, and it was clean and refreshing; if I wasn’t so full, I would’ve definitely liked a serving of this.

Calamari  $  16.00
Corn dogs  $   9.00
Mushroom tart  $  15.00
Ribeye and truffle fries  $  69.00
Small action seafood plateau  $  56.00
Truffle French fries  $  12.00
Diet Coke  $   3.00
Pavlova  $  14.00
Manager’s comp –$  15.00
Tax (8.375%)  $  14.99
Gratuity (20%)  $  38.80
Total  $ 232.79

The chart to the right shows how much we paid.

One funny thing about this restaurant was that there was a DJ by the entrance playing very loud music the entire time we were there. It is absolutely not what I was expecting from a restaurant that advertises themselves as being fine dining… though maybe that is what the “boom bang” is sup­posed to represent? I was there to catch up with my friend, so after a lot of yelling over the music, I concluded my dinner with a sore throat.

I think the consistency and quality of the food was a bit scattered. There was nothing that was bad, but everything wasn’t excellent either. Some of the dishes were fairly average, and I sometimes don’t notice right away because of my desensitization to prices, but if I go back and think about it, there were a few things that made me think “I could get this exact same thing of the exact same quality at a different restaurant for less than half the price.”

If you’re someone who likes a more “youthful” and upbeat environment, I think you’d enjoy Boom Bang. However, if you’re looking for traditional fine dining, this restaurant might not have the type of experience that you’re looking for. I also think it could be worth it for the restaurant to do a quick review on pricing and ease a bit on the intensity of the fried foods.

As a disclaimer, note that I do not drink alcohol and did not try any of the cocktails—which I im­agine must be good, considering that they literally put “cocktails” in their restaurant name. If you like cocktails, wine, spirits, and champagne, they have a large drink menu, so you are probably closer to the target audience for Boom Bang and you may end up having a much more fulfilling experience than I did.




White lightning American bison belt by Jacob Hill Leather Co.

If you’re relatively new here, you might not know that I’m a bit of a leather goods enthusiast. I have a category on my blog dedicated to leather, and I like to review the various leather-made goods I buy. To be clear, I do not like designer leather goods; instead, I seek out independent leatherworkers so I can support smaller businesses without having to pay the upcharge for the brand name.

One of the leatherworkers I’ve been purchasing belts from for a few years now is Jacob Hill Leather Co. from Belmont, North Carolina. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a new belt—not since before the pandemic, in fact—so I figured I would do some leisurely browsing to see if anything caught my eye.

Jacob Hill Leather has a limited-edition white lightning American bison collection, and one of the items was a belt.

The total I paid for the product plus shipping is US$204.31, which is considerably lower than some of my other belts. Overall, I’m decently satisfied with the purchase. This is my first leather good made out of bison, and previously, I thought that bison was similar to cowhide in its texture. I was pleasantly surprised when this American bison belt arrived and it had a much more lumpy, unique, and interesting texture.

The website advertised this belt as having a special black matte buckle, but mine arrived with the standard chrome one. This has sort of been a recurring theme for me with Jacob Hill Leather—albeit minor, there is always some sort of issue with my belts.

For my white smoke hornback saltwater crocodile belt, the length of the belt was shorter than what I ordered, and I was missing the standard buckle (I pur­chased an extra buckle on the side as a separate item, and they instead replaced the belt’s standard buckle with the extra one instead of giving me both). For my Indonesian stingray rowstone belt, the holes were punched in a way that some of the rowstones were shattered instead of being cleanly cut, and the hardware holding the belt loops in place arrived already stripped of paint.

So why do I keep ordering from them? The issues are generally so minor that it doesn’t materially affect my appreciation of the final product, and most importantly, this is the best value-to-price ratio I’ve seen in leather belts. Even considering the errors, the price is just too good to pass up—the next leatherworker I’ve seen with this level of craftsmanship and leather quality is at least one-and-a-half to two times the price.

Like usual, I don’t want to go overboard on buying leather goods because I can very easily go overboard, so I’ll probably go on a shopping cooldown for a bit, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Jacob Hill’s next special edition or limited release product is going to be.

Note: I was not compensated in any manner for this review and do not plan to accept any compensation offers after-the-fact. Jacob Hill Leather was not provided with an opportunity to read or revise this blog post prior to publication.




Hello, Shaker + Spear at the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in Belltown, Seattle, Washington

During my recent one-week trip to Seattle, I met back up with my friends Doug and Dani to enjoy another dinner at a nice restaurant. Last time we went to Shiro’s Sushi; this time, Dani selected Shaker + Spear in the Belltown district of downtown Seattle.

Our first appetizer was rockfish ancho ceviche with red onions, cucumber, lime, and cilantro.

This was a little bit too sour for my personal preference, but I think it was still very tasty. The rockfish had a nice spongy texture that was very satisfying to chew down on, and the crispiness of the cucumber provided a pleasant contrast. The overall proportions of the ingredients in the dish were also good—you only need a little bit of cucumber to complement the rockfish, and accordingly, the dish was mostly rockfish and a lesser ratio of cucumber.

Next was charred octopus with cucumber, Fresnos, mirin, sunflower seeds, cilantro, aji amarillo, lime, and olive oil.

This was probably one of my favorite dishes of all time. The firmness of the octopus was perfect—soft enough that it was effortlessly edible, but firm enough that it had the satisfying resistance you’d expect from meat. The sauce was indescribably delicious. The cucumber added the perfect amount of freshness when drenched in the sauce. The seeds added a fun element of crunchiness to the dish while also contributing a deep nuttiness. The peppers were subtle enough that they didn’t distract from any of the core flavors.

Dani wanted to get some street corn with chili, cotija, lime vegan mayo, lime zest, and cilantro.

I think most cheeses smell like vomit. I think I can just leave it at that and you can probably guess how much I liked the corn.

If you know me, then it’s probably unsurprising that I also got an order of Pacific Northwest oysters with red wine mignonette and lemon.

I eat a lot of oysters. I like the flavor of them untarnished by any sauces, so I always eat them plain. I found these particular oysters to be of pretty good qual­i­ty, but not notably special.

Doug, on the other hand, found them to be absolutely stellar; he said that he doesn’t often eat oysters, but these were some of the best he has ever had.

Our main entrées were taking a while to come out, so while we were waiting, we were served a fifth starter/appetizer, compliments of the chef—honey prosciutto toast with chili onion jam, honey, and brie atop house sourdough.

Doug and Dani only had one quarter of one piece each, so I ended up eating one and a half out of the two pieces. If it was up to me, I would’ve reduced the amount of brie because the prosciutto was just slightly lacking in sufficient intensity to balance out the taste of the brie, but overall, I thought it was pretty good. It had a decent amount of sweetness to it because of the jam and honey, so it was a great way to mix up the flavors on my taste buds a bit prior to jumping into the main courses.

Dani ordered sundried tomato risotto with heirloom cherry tomatoes, sautéed shrimp, Grana Padano, and butter.

I took a small bite of a small portion of risotto, and it wasn’t much different than if I had just taken a bite out of a block of mushy cheese. I am literally not exaggerating when I say that I did not taste anything, at all, except cheese.

I’m sure it would’ve been better if I had mixed some shrimp into my bite, but note that including shrimp in the dish is an add-on; I am confused about the people who would order this without any add-ons and practically just eat … cheese.

Dani also ordered a side of truffle parmesan fries with black garlic aioli, which we shared as a table.

I like potatoes, so unsurprisingly, I liked the fries. I think it would’ve been a lot better without the parmesan (or at least a whole lot less of it), but I managed to just dodge it and eat the fries that didn’t have any cheese on them.

For his entrée, Doug selected pan-seared king salmon with pea purée, yuzu gel, pickled pearl onions, and peas.

Doug and I ended up splitting our entrées half-and-half, so I got to taste some of both his salmon as well as the pork pictured below. The portion size on the salmon was disappointingly small, but it was still good salmon. The peas and yuzu gel complemented the salmon nicely and enhanced the flavor of the fish.

Upon recommendation by the waitress, I ordered roasted pork shoulder with creamed local greens, pickled Rainier cherries, and cherry pit jus.

This was probably one of the best cuts of pork I’ve ever had in my life. The meat was amazingly tender and had an intensely strong pork flavor without be­ing too overwhelming or gamey at all. As you may know, a lot of the flavor of meat comes from the fat; this cut of pork shoulder had a great ratio of fat to meat, and it had just enough that I was able to add some pork fat to each bite without it being so much that it was slimy.

The pickled Rainier cherries and cherry jus added a very unique facet to the dish which I enjoyed a lot. They were slightly sweet, but the sweetness was sub­dued enough that it was clearly prominently a pork dish and not a jumble of different flavors.

Doug also gave a glowing review of the pork shoulder. He didn’t give too many details, but he liked it a lot.

For dessert, we got a scoop of the seasonal sorbet—prickly pear.

In case it wasn’t blatantly obvious from the photograph, the sorbet didn’t actually come with those ridges. Doug accidentally started eating before I got to take a photo, but when he realized, he pulled the spoon out. He noticed that the spoon had left an indentation in the sorbet, but instead of just putting the spoon back into the ridge for a more natural photo, he proceeded to create artificial ridges throughout the entire serving. So the only picture I have shows the sorbet with some … decorations. 🤦

Another mildly funny story… I was originally under the impression that prickly pear was actually Pyrus pyrifolia, colloquially known as the Asian pear. When I tasted the sorbet, the flavor also resembled an Asian pear. Shortly afterwards, Dani looked up what prickly pears actually were, and apparently, they are the fruit of a certain type of cactus. That was an incredibly confusing thing to find out, especially while I had a bite of the sorbet in my mouth and could’ve sworn it was Asian pear.

Rockfish ancho ceviche  $  14.00
Charred octopus  $  23.00
Street corn  $  12.00
Half-dozen PNW oysters  $  24.00
Honey prosciutto toast  $   0.00
Risotto with shrimp  $  34.00
Truffle fries  $  13.00
King salmon  $  40.00
Roasted pork shoulder  $  36.00
Prickly pear sorbet  $   6.00
Surcharge (5%)  $  10.30
Tax (10.25%)  $  22.18
Gratuity  $  50.00
Total  $ 288.48

The chart to the right outlines how much we paid for each item. Yes, that is indeed a 5% sur­charge. If you know me, you know that I have a bone to pick with this res­tau­rant because of it.

At the bottom of the menu, there is an explanation of the surcharge: “We are a proud supporter of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance. A 5% surcharge to support this will be added to your bill. 100% of this surcharge is retained by Shaker + Spear and is not directly distributed as a tip or gratuity to the restaurant’s staff. As always, gratuity for service rendered is at your discretion and is directly distributed to staff members.”

In the spirit of “voting with your wallet,” there is nothing that makes me want to never go back to a busi­ness again more than mandatory extra charges and fees. If there is a voluntary extra fee for an opt-in add-on service, that is fine. However, if there is something that you are required to do as part of the core experience, that should be built into the list price, not added on as a roundabout manner via a sur­charge.

For example, hotel resort fees are fine if you are able to opt out of the amenities and not pay them; they are not fine when every single guest is required to pay it anyway, even if they never step foot into the re­sort area, and in that situation, it should just be included in the room rate.

If Shaker + Spear needs more positive cash flow to help afford paying employees a higher wage, it is per­fectly acceptable to charge more for the food. They just need to adjust the actual pricing on their of­fer­ings and print that true price directly on the menu. The solution is not to underhandedly add on a dol­lar or two onto every item at the end of your meal.

I actually did not even realize we were charged an extra fee until after I finished writing the upper re­view part of this blog post and pulled up a photo­graph of the receipt to complete this cost breakdown section. In confusion, I had to pull up online cop­ies of the menu to search for the explanation of the surcharge written at the bottom in fine print.

I am reacting quite negatively to this because the premise of being expected to pay gratuity to your servers in the United States is already bad enough, and I do not want our culture to further normalize even more extra add-on costs on top of the list price. All the food (at least the dishes without cheese) were delicious and I had an amazing experience at the restaurant, but because of the surcharge, I cannot recommend this restaurant, as this kind of busi­ness practice is a deal-breaker for me.




Hello, Deception Pass State Park in Oak Harbor, Washington

I used to go to the Seattle Metropolitan Area relatively frequently because a member of Tempo‘s executive team used to live up there, so I would visit her for work and for fun, and it was also a good way to visit some other friends while I was in the area. However, since her move out-of-state, the “kill two avians with one stone” concept didn’t work when it came to threading in a free personal trip while I was already in town for work, so I haven’t been go­ing as frequently.

This past week, I decided to take a trip to Seattle anyway. One of the places I toured was Deception Pass State Park, a Washington state park in Oak Har­bor. It actually reminded me a lot of my prior visit over one year ago to the Larrabee State Park, but Deception Pass was brighter and had much more water.

After a very brief stop at the Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mount Vernon on our way there, we drove to the Deception Pass State Park Administration Offices to purchase a pass (upon which we found out were actually sold elsewhere, at the Entrance Station). We eventually made our way to the North and West Beach Parking Lot at the state park and started our hike on Pacific Northwest Trail.

From the trail, we were able to see the bridge in the distance.

We continued all the way down Pacific NW Trail up to its intersection at Washington State Route 20, where we were able to get a direct view of the un­der­side of the bridge.

After crossing over to the other side, we connected onto Goose Rock Perimeter Trail. After continuing eastbound, we found an interesting sight—a house on top of a rock on Ben Ure Island.

Continuing on the perimeter trail, we made it towards the bottom where we got some nice views of the Deception Pass Marina, Cornet Bay, and the Cor­net Bay County Park.

Here is a random very fuzzy tree.

Goose Rock Perimeter Trail eventually turned into Goose Rock Summit Trail. After some switchbacks and a lot of elevation gain, we made it to a spot where I got a nice view of Deception Island in the background and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in the far distance.

Here are some photos of me at Goose Rock Summit.

Fun fact, I didn’t bring enough t-shirts in my luggage, so the shirt I’m wearing was actually the shirt I was using as my pajama shirt for the prior 4 days.

Because the variant of Goose Rock Trail we took was a loop, we made it back to the intersection at Washington State Route 20. We decided to climb up the stairs onto the bridge and do a down-and-back to take in some of the nice views of Pass Island and the actual “pass” portion of Deception Pass.

Here is a random humongous spider web that I found stretched across some branches on our way back to the parking lot.

And finally, here is one of the last photos I took as we were retracing our steps westbound on Pacific Northwest Trail. I believe this is of the North Beach at Macs Cove, close to the Scenic Vista Parking Lot.

Overall, our hike clocked in at 5.36 miles (8.63 kilometers) and took a little over three hours (though I believe that includes breaks, chatting with other hikers, and snacking at the summit). My elevation gain on my fitness tracker wasn’t fully accurate because I was also taking the stairs up and down my hotel that day, but my hiking companion’s fitness tracker said our climb was right around 103 stories in height.

I haven’t been on a good, long hike in a while, so this was a very pleasant and refreshing experience. Apparently Deception Pass is the most popular state park in Washington, and based on my experience, it definitely made sense why.

If you like boating or camping, Deception Pass can be a great multi-day trip, but if you’re more of a hiker and beach-goer, I think this state park is just big enough that you can head over in the morning, fill the day with activities, and return in the evening.




Hello, Jjanga Steak & Sushi in Las Vegas, Nevada

I go to a lot of high-end restaurants, and a lot of people seem to enjoy seeing what food is like at tasting menu, chef’s choice, and omakase restaurants, but I’ve also received a few requests to show some spots that are within a more reasonable price range. To fulfill that request, I made a quick lunch trip last week to Jjanga Steak & Sushi in the southwest suburbs of the Las Vegas Valley for some all-you-can-eat sushi.

They have two variants of their all-you-can-eat offering, a cheaper option for lunch and a slightly pricier option for an all day menu. The all day menu had a much broader selection that included many of my preferred sushi and seafood dishes, so I opted for the all day menu.

My first dish was amaebi topped with flying fish roe. It was a nice, thick, broad piece with a well-balanced amount of seasoning. It had the same juicy and satisfying tex­ture as you’d expect from high-quality sweet shrimp.

Each day of the week, they have a rotating special menu. I tried a bunch of items from their special menu, and the first item that came out was bulgogi inari. It was very average, and I liked it—it was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from bulgogi and rice with a bit of crispy onion at the top for tex­ture.

I also ordered a different beef dish, but I don’t remember what this was, as I can’t seem to find it on either the special nor the regular AYCE menu. It was almost as if it was a beef dumpling, but the fried crust was thicker and it was much creamier on the inside. This item was definitely leaning heavily towards the “steak” side of the “steak and sushi” coverage of the restaurant. I think this would’ve been a better entrée to eat as a closer to counteract a long chain of raw fish.

Next up was was salmon belly sashimi. As you can probably see from the photo, they put way too much screaming orgasm sauce (which is usually made with some mayonnaise, vinegar, fish sauce, and other sauces used in Japanese cuisine). I scraped a majority of it off—as much as possible without removing too much of the flying fish roe. Salmon belly is one of my favorite cuts of sushi, and I think this would’ve been much, much better if served without so much sauce.

Next up was an oyster. It was mysteriously disconnected from the shell, so I’m not sure if this is one of those situations where restaurants only use the shell for show and actually just put the oyster into an empty shell manually. Regardless, the oyster was very large and very flavorful.

After finishing my round of daily special menu items, I ordered a sashimi salad. The photo didn’t focus properly and didn’t come out too well, but I decided to post it anyway because I enjoyed the theme that this restaurant had of broad, thick pieces of shrimp.

I also got a screaming orgasm—the actual entrée, not just the sauce. It was strips of tuna sashimi topped with some flying fish roe (which, I discovered, they really enjoy using on many different dishes as a topping).

I was curious and wanted to try out a few more items from the grill side again, so I ordered a mini chicken katsu. The portion size was much, much larger than I expected, and I definitely regret ordering this because of how much sushi I could’ve had in its stead. The chicken quality was mediocre, it was slightly overcooked, and the breading was a bit excessive.

I also tried an octopus skewer. I thought it would come out raw, but it was deep fried instead. Again, it was larger than I expected, and again, it was fairly mediocre.

After eating all that fried food, I went back to some sushi. I had a lot more nigiri than is pictured here, but one of my favorite selections from this res­tau­rant was the escolar, commonly known as white tuna.

For dessert, I finished with a small piece of mango mochi.

Here is a breakdown of what I paid:

All-you-can-eat, all-day menu  $ 31.99
Tax (7.65%)  $  2.64
Gratuity (18%)  $  6.23
Total  $ 40.86

Overall, I’d say that I had a decently satisfying experience. If you also decide to pay a visit to Jjanga for all-you-can-eat and you like sushi, I highly rec­om­mend avoiding their grill menu and just sticking with their specials and sushi menu items to get maximum value for your money.