Norton Simon, Van Gogh, and awesome Dumplings.

Saturday my buddy little Danny picked me up early, and we went out to Pat and Lloraines for breakfast. After the inevitable Reservoir Dogs conversation, we discussed our plans for the day, and pretty much had the whole thing laid out.

After breakfast, we would cruise up Eagle Rock Bl to Colorado, and make a right to go up and over the hill to Pasadena. Once over Suicide Bridger, we would turn left into the Norton Simon Museum, and go see the Van Gogh self portrait that is on loan there. After the Museum, we’d hit Arcadia to check out some dumplings we had heard of on Bourdain’s “The Layover”. 

I tried to order a small breakfast, but nothing at Pat and Lloraines is small, and I was glad when we pulled into the museum and we could walk off our breakfasts. We arrived right when they opened, at noon. There was already a crowd around the Van Gogh, which was set up so you could catch a glimpse of it from the foyer.

Up close, it’s as awesome as any Van Gogh I’ve seen, with his own style of deep oily swirls and swipes, dashes and spots of contrasting paint, sometimes not contrasted by color but rather simply by the different shading caused by the light hitting the paint differently, on the  peaks and valleys of colors you’d never think to put there.

I loved how the light hit his cheek in the portrait, I remember being struck by it and really wondering how he chose his colors for highlights.

It was extremely satisfying, and they also had the Mulberry Tree painting, one of my regular favorites at Norton Simon. Little Danny was with me, and he had yet to see a Van Gogh, or a Picasso, or Matisse for that matter, so I showed him around as best I could.

He took a real interest in Degas, mostly because of the decent collection Norton Simon has, and also the interesting stories I was telling him about the Ballerina situation, and how he, to me, was a bit of a creep.

We also spent a good amount of time in the Asian Art section of the museum, really taking in the Hindu art and in particular a couple of stately statuesque female figures that think would look pretty awesome on a surf music 7″ single. . . . Perhaps more on that later, perhaps not. I really enjoyed their Japanese art, although the amount of pieces in this section was rather lacking. It occurs to me that I need to find a good Japanese Art museum in town.

After the museum, we hit the second part of our itinerary, which was to go to Din Tai Fung for some of their famous dumplings. We saw this place on Bourdain, while he was up in Taipei, and it turned out it was a chain, with a spot in Arcadia.  It was a nice 10 minute drive from the museum, and when we got there, the crowd out front let us know we had found the right place. We put our names down, and were told we would need to wait about an hour and 15. Not to be dissuaded, We put down “Fred for two” with my cell number, and walked out to the sidewalk to look for a bar. Right next door was a bowling alley, and we walked in, up to the bar, and ordered a pitcher of Newcastle. It was the only real beer we could agree on, and I have to say  It’s a pretty sad state of affairs if you have 6 taps, and the best beer you have is Newcastle. We got through the pitcher slowly, in about 20 minutes, and were just refilling our last pints, when the restaurant texted me with an EMERGENCY message, saying, “PLEASE GET BACK TO RESTAURANT ASAP SO WE CAN SEAT YOU”

I had to slam a whole pint of Newcastle, and shuffled back to the dumpling house in a hurry, only to have the hostess take my order and have me wait outside some more. . . .This was a bit odd, but Bourdain said so, so we waited.

It was absolutely worth it. We had the house special juicy pork dumplings, along with pork shumai and shrimp, and also shrimp and spicy pork dumplings. EVERYTHING was fantastic. There was a right way to eat these things, and when you got to your table, the process revealed itself to you. 

There was a small bowl of thin shredded ginger, crisp and fresh, and a bottle of vinegar for the ginger. You topped the ginger with the vinegar, mixed in chili oil to taste, and placed the dumpling in here for a nice coating. Then you placed a shred of ginger on the dumpling, then pick it up with your chopsticks and eat the whole thing. They advise you to poke a hole in the corner, cause they can be hot, but if you can wait two minutes, you’ll be fine. It’s hard to wait those two minutes.

The juicy pork dumpling itself is a perfectly hot little pocket of awesome, with a juicy punch of hot broth. The technique is awesome, they congeal a hearty broth into a fatty paste, put that in a dumpling wrap with a little pork, seal it, then steam the whole thing. the thick broth paste breaks back down and melts into hot juicy goodness, and the cooked dumpling that ensues is simply amazing. After the juicy pork, we had a spicy pork and shrimp dumpling that was amazing, and a round of shrimp and pork shumai dumplings that were so good, I forgot to take a pic till we were more than halfway done with them. They come ten at a time, and on an exceptionally hungry day, I could eat maybe 20 to 25. That’s a LOT of food. For lunch, splitting ten with a friend, and a bowl of fried rice, is perfect.

Full and happy, we went back home, and sat around on the couch in a hazy, happy, food coma. After a while my brother called, and we made arrangements to go to Pasadena for a growler refill at the Stone brewery store. I got a 2L fillup of Cali Belgique-IPA, and enjoyed that on Sunday with my Superbowl pizza at my aunt Patty’s house. Between the beer, and the awesomely entertaining game, I had a really awesome family style Superbowl. Went back home, watched Top gear till midnight, and called it a weekend.

This week I hope to get some more news about my car, my accountant tells me I can expect a tax return, and a nice influx of cash, and I might even be completely debt free for the first time in about 20 years, so needless to say, looking forward to staying on an even keel for a few months if possible, and handling some business. For now, I just try to enjoy myself. . . I feel like I did a good job of that this weekend. I also played enough guitar to put holes in my fingers, and my fingers have 20 years of guitar callouses on them, so that’s a LOT of guitar, so I’m very, very happy about that.

Peace !

– Fred.

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