April 10th, 2014
The best cookies in San Francisco.
“You want to check out this place in Santa Ana?”
My old roommate asked me this question on a random weeknight. Santa Ana? Really? During college, it was frequently joked that Santa Ana was where Irvine PD took homeless people to keep Irvine looking “suburban”. I had nothing better to do so I tagged along.
Mike told me that one of his buddies had friends that were opening up this bar/lounge in Santa Ana. My expectations were low so once I walked into The Crosby, I didn’t know what to think. It was as if I was transported to somewhere other than Orange County. There were old 80’s boom boxes on the walls. There was music playing. No DJ (yet) but really good, background music you could bob your head to. They served food and had beer and wine (no liquor license yet). I got the cheapest thing on the menu, The Starving Artist, and was pleasantly surprised when they had Chimay on tap for $6.
I knew this place was different when I took that first bite out of the sandwich. I said, “Oh shit” out loud. When I have good food, I’ll raise my eyebrows or nod my head in approval. I rarely use profanity out loud unless the food is that good. The Starving Artist is chef Aron Habinger’s take on the grilled cheese. And it was $5. We left that night and thought, “We’re coming back again.”
This was the beginning of my love for The Crosby. We kept going back and in February 2009, I moved to Santa Ana in an apartment two blocks away from The Crosby. I loved that I was walking distance from The Crosby, Memphis and other great bars and restaurants in Downtown Santa Ana. I loved to show this side of Orange County to people who thought it was nothing but suburbs and conservatives.
Around the same time, DJ Rhettmatic and planbb started their infamous Shift residency on Thursday nights. This changed everything. As if we didn’t have plenty of reasons to go, Shift on Thursdays always gave us something to do on Thursdays. My friends and I had it down to a routine. At around 8, Nino and I would walk to CVS to restock our fridge. By 9 we had our first drinks made and started getting ready. By 10, friends would come over and have a few drinks and by 11, we were walking the two blocks to The Crosby to enjoy the rest of the night. We did this for almost every Shift and for countless other Fridays and Saturdays from 2009 until Nino and I moved out in 2011.
The Crosby was more than a restaurant, bar or lounge. You could argue that it single handedly changed people’s opinions of Santa Ana. It was a huge reason why I moved to Santa Ana. It gave my friends a reason to visit and hang out in Santa Ana. I celebrated birthdays there. We celebrated New Year’s there. I reconnected with Mary there and threw her first surprise birthday there. I’ve bought many rounds of drinks for countless friends. When I think of my late 20’s and my transition into responsible adulthood, I’ll always look back and think of my time in downtown Santa Ana and The Crosby. And I’ll be happy that I was a part of it the short time it was there.
“All of these restrictions are because [the city] doesn’t know us or our concept,” Alfaro believes, “so that’s their way of making sure we don’t create this crazy nightclub where people get stabbed every night.”
An eerie premonition from The Crosby co-founder Chris Alfaro in a 2007 interview in The OC Weekly. A few weeks have passed since Kim Pham was murdered. Two weeks after her murder, The Crosby closed its doors forever. The reason why is still unknown but I have a feeling the City of Santa Ana might have something to do with it.
If you’ve never known the full history behind The Crosby, this is a great read.#
Our dinner reservations were at 6:30pm meaning we had to leave the apartment by 6:15 at the latest. We’re not ones who crave attention so I know I didn’t want to do it at dinner. I didn’t want a whole restaurant looking at me while I was proposing. So if I was going to do it, I had to do it before we left. I didn’t have a speech written down or anything memorized. I figured I was going to say what was on my mind. My biggest worry was how was I going to bring it up.
My original plan was to say, “I bought you something for your birthday, but I want you to wear it to dinner” but I knew that was kind of cheesy and lame. If I wasn’t already nervous, I was starting to stress out because my window of asking her before we left for dinner was starting to close.
Malia loves to play dress up and loves to help her mom get ready. While Mary was putting on her makeup, Malia was being helpful in picking out her accessories. “Mommy, you should wear a necklace,” she said.
“Mommy, you should wear these earrings to dinner.”
My heart started pounding even harder as I knew that this was my best chance to propose to Mary. I motioned Malia to come closer to me.
“Malia” I whispered, “ask Mommy if she wants to wear a ring.” Malia had been asking for years when her mom and I would get married. A few months earlier, I asked Malia if she was ok with me asking her mom to marry me. Her eyes lit up as she walked to her mom who was busy putting on her makeup.
“Mommy, do you want to wear a ring to dinner?” Malia asked.
“No, that’s ok,” replied Mary.
It’s true what they say. Your mind really goes blank as you’re asking the love of your life to marry you. I had an idea of what I wanted to say but I was all caught up in the moment. I don’t think any words were able to come out. Malia saw me get down on one knee and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m asking your mommy to marry me,” I said.
Once Mary turned around and saw me on one knee, all she could say was, “Shut. Up.”
Malia, being the bad word police, said, “Mommy! You said a bad word.”
The next few seconds were a blur, but from what I remember, I finally gathered my words and asked Mary if she wanted to marry me.
She said yes.
I’ve said in my previous reviews that something bigger and more exciting happens than in the previous year. The pattern held true again this year. I proposed to Mary and we’re now engaged. A lot of other things happened this year. More friends and family got married and a few others welcomed new life into theirs. And still others received news that they were going to become new parents. But for us, looking back, 2013 will be the year that I asked my girlfriend to become my wife.
A few weeks back, the famous Dr. Drang posted a piece on the inconsistencies of the parallax effect in iOS 7. I found an exception and replied back to him on Twitter. This is probably the first time I’ve been linked to on the website of a PhD.#
At around 11, as this surprise rush’s orders come in, the pass fills up with dishes, but none of the four food runners are present. This could prove disastrous, the sort of domino effect that a kitchen might not bounce back from: dishes could go out cold and come back for refires, clogging up the line for rest of the night, creating delays, angry customers, cuss words and — worse — comps. The sous chef paces, showing signs of stress. He walks out of the kitchen to yell, “Runners!” through the swinging doors. And sure enough, the machine kicks back into gear.
If you want a behind the scenes look at how a restaurant is run, this is as real and true as it gets. From the mindless prep, to the different cooking stations, the Spanglish, to the description of the flow of the kitchen: everything is spot on. Forget what you see on TV, that is all glamorized. Be sure to watch the video of how the potatoes are prepped.#
I’ve always been interested in the restaurant and food service industry. I worked on a food truck for over a year and it was one of my best job experiences. I moved to the Bay Area over a year ago and have been enjoying all the restaurants and great food this area has to offer. After leaving the food truck, I realized that I missed working in that environment, not to mention, the extra cash. I’ve longed to work in a kitchen again but without the flexibility of my previous day job, I would have to sacrifice my evenings and weekends to take on a side job.
A month ago, I started my new side gig as a line cook at Noelani’s in Downtown San Carlos. Mary came across a Craigslist ad looking for servers, line cooks and busboys for the restaurant and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to turn in a resume. After a call back and a dinner service as a try out, they were impressed enough to offer me a position.
Working in a kitchen is completely different from working on a food truck. I’ve read articles saying working on a truck is more difficult with the limited space. I say this is true but there are other aspects of working in a kitchen that add up to make it overall more challenging than working on a food truck.
First off is plating. After months of chucking tacos into taco trays and wrapping burritos in foil, I had to learn how to properly plate dishes. Our head chef has a vision of how he wants the plates to go out, even down to the dish ware it goes out on. So on top of preparing the dish, I have to remember what plate it goes on and other dressings it needs before it goes out.
Second is the variety of the menu. The food from Dos Chinos is really good, but when you get down to it, it’s just tacos, burritos or fries with your choice of protein. When I got a list of items that I was responsible for at my station and how each one was prepared, I froze. I had to ask tons of questions before I was comfortable preparing the dishes on my own (see 1st point). And I still ask questions and I still mess up. Our restaurant is more of a bar/lounge instead of a sit down restaurant. We don’t have to deal with timing the dishes to all come out at the same time; food comes out as it’s ready. I can’t imagine the level of difficulty when you have to time dishes to come out all at once.
Finally, cleanup. After my stint on the truck, I had a much greater respect for chefs, line cooks and everyone in food service. It’s fast paced, high tension, you’re hungry and thirsty and you get little or no breaks. It is definitely hard work. When running a food truck, you can hire people at the commissary you park at to clean the truck after every shift. I can’t believe how much of a luxury this was in retrospect. In a regular kitchen, everything must be cleaned up, wrapped, washed, sanitized and put away at the end of the night. You may read that and it doesn’t sound that hard. I’d invite you to watch what goes on in a kitchen after they announce last call for food in the kitchen. I’d also dare you to try to squeeze in an order once the last call is made.
I’m fortunate that I found another gig that lets me cook for people and is flexible around my schedule. The people I work with are fun, easy going and are willing to teach me. If you’re ever in the area, check us out.
Today you turn 5 years old. I’ve only known you for a little over 2 of those 5 years but we’ve come a long way.
I remember the first day I met you. I was super nervous. If you can believe it, I was never too comfortable with little kids. I remember we picked you up and took you to IKEA. On the car ride, your mom played “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa and you were shy at first, but you loosened up and started singing the chorus.
At your 3rd birthday, I came to your party and it was the first time I met your Grandma Cora, your Papa JC and the rest of your family. When we were opening your gifts, I was sitting next to you and I got up to give you more room, but you wanted me to stay and sit next to you.
I remember the first time you got upset at me. We were leaving the apartment and on our way out, I opened the door but didn’t undo the chain. You were so eager to get out that you stuck your hand in the crack of the door and while I closed the door to undo the chain, I pinched your fingers on the door. You cried and you stopped but it wasn’t until I apologized for pinching your fingers that you were your normal self.
When you weren’t used to me, you would always want Mommy. There was a 50/50 chance that you’d want Mommy to get you when I would try to get you out of your carseat. I don’t remember the last time you said that.
I remember all the times you call me “Daddy”. When you first said it, I didn’t think much of it but as our relationship grew, it means a lot more. I always correct you, I never set out to replace your dad but I’m honored that you would look at me in that way. Especially as you’ve grown older, smarter and more aware of what is going on around you.
I remember your “Target phase” when we would look at the website and shop for toys and clothes for your future baby brothers and sisters. “What else do babies need?”
You’re such a loving little girl. Shortly after you could figure out that I wasn’t just Mommy’s “friend”, you would ask when we would get married. Or how you always run and hug me when I pick you up from school. I love that your classmates, who I never really learned their names, would always tell you, “Malia, your Dad is here to pick you up!” I love that they just know.
You make me so proud when the little things I teach you stick. Especially when you take off your shoes and put them to the side. One time, Mommy and I called you while you were with your dad and you yelled at him! “Put your shoes away! Someone could trip on them!” At a girl! Or the time you were sleeping and said, “Awatap”. You still get grouchy when you’re tired or sleepy (who doesn’t), but now you’ll tell us instead of us having to guess.
And you’re so smart too. You know almost all your letters, you can write sentences as long as we tell you what letters to write. And you can carry a conversation. I laugh when people still talk to you like a toddler. Little do they know you’re capable of regular conversations. You love to talk about your Uncle Clyde, my old dog Kaylah, the story of when you were born or the story of how me and your mom met. Both times.
You’re such a strong little girl. I can’t even imagine what it’s like constantly going back and forth to two different houses. But you’re still a normal little girl who likes to play with other kids and play with your toys. You like to make up games with all your Littlest Pet Shop toys. And I love that whenever you come back from your dad’s house, you bring more toys from his parent’s house to our apartment and tell us that you’re “moving in”.
I know sometimes I’ll get upset at you and I know I can be annoying when I constantly tell you to do things. I only do it out of love. I know you’re not of my flesh or blood, but I treat you as one of my own. Now and forever. I know I tell you I’m not scared of anything but one of the scariest things a man wonders is if he’ll be a decent father. Your future brothers and/or sisters should thank you. You’ve taught me that I’m more than capable of being a “real” father one day.
Happy birthday Lia Bear.
Thirty three is supposed to be an insignificant birthday. Sure, thirty is a big deal. Maybe even thirty five or the one before the big 4-0 can be considered a bigger deal than thirty three. It’s the last year before you officially hit your mid-thirties. But this year will definitely go down in the books as one of my best birthdays ever.
I’ve been living in the Bay Area for over a year now. I love it up here. I could list a bunch of reasons why we love living here. If I could change one thing, however, it would be to spend more time with my friends and family. We text, IM, talk and FaceTime with them but it’s not as easy to call someone up to hang out and spend time. That’s not to say we don’t have friends up here or that we’d trade our lives up here to move back home. Just sometimes, you miss your friends and family.
This year, Mary gave me the most thoughtful gift I’ve ever received. Back in April, she reached out to thirty three of my closest friends and family and had them write individual birthday cards to me. She mailed them out (each with a SASE), collected them in time and presented all thirty three to me on my birthday. Not only did that act surprise me, but the cards I received blew me away. Not only by the participation from all my friends and family, but also by the messages everyone wrote to me. I’m not one who craves attention, but this definitely made me feel loved and appreciated by everyone.
To everyone who wrote me a card, thank you. Seriously. I am not the person I am today without all of you. I know we don’t get to talk or see each other everyday, but you all are still in my mind. To Mary, you really out did yourself. I can’t imagine a better birthday present. Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am today. You reached out to all my close friends and family and reminded me that they all miss and care about me. I love you.