Speaking Jose…

First Night in LA – Katsu-ya
December 31, 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Family, Food, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

For our first night in LA we went to dinner with Amie and David (sister in law and husband) at Katsu-ya in Studio City.  (Dont confuse it with the new place in Hollywood, the quality of the sushi is better at the Studio City location) This is one of the best sushi places I’ve ever been to and probably one of the best in the country.  You wouldn’t know this from looking at the exterior, it’s a little hole-in-the-wall place in a strip mall and looks completely nondescript, except for the line of people outside waiting to get in. You know its a good place once you sit down at your table and they bring in a white board with today’s specials (piece of advice: order off the white board, asking for a menu will instantly identify you as a newbie to Katsu-ya or sushi itself).  Pictures and details after the break.

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Santa was good to Jose this year
December 26, 2008, 3:54 am
Filed under: Events, Food, Pictures | Tags: , , ,


Santa brought a lot of good presents to me this year 🙂 Got a couple of great cooking books from Mom and a copy of The Starbucks Experience from my brother. Kristen rocked and got me a pair of nice flannel PJ bottoms and a universal remote (which I spent all day playing with and programming 🙂 )

My in-laws got me a new bottle of Sapphire Gin which we got to break out today at Christmas Dinner. We had a few people over and it was a little crazy getting everything ready, but we had a good time. Highlight of the evening was my mother in-law leaving us some of her home-baked cookies and buckeyes (pictured below)!

ruths buckeyes

Preparing for Christmas Eve
December 24, 2008, 3:47 pm
Filed under: Events, Family | Tags: , , ,

Greetings to everyone! I hope your Holiday season is going well. It’s been about a month since my last post, but its been quite a month. Between wrapping up this semester at Business school and working on a new rebalance project at Detroit Diesel, the time to sit down and put pen to paper (or in this case fingers to keyboard) has been difficult to come by. The last few days have been especially crazy as I wrap up work stuff while getting the Christmas shopping done. Thankfully its all done, so tonight we can go have a nice Christmas Eve dinner with Kristen’s family. I had thought about writing something about what Christmas means to me, but I think Linus from the Charlie Brown Christmas special says it best (see the video below).

Even though its a happy time of year for us, I get a little blue because my Grandfather Pico passed away around this time in 1996.   We usually went to his house on Christmas day to meet up with the rest of the Pico clan and have a big Christmas buffet where everyone had a great time.  He was a well known Ear Nose Throat doctor (Otolaryngologist for those want the complicated title) in Puerto Rico who was passionate about the care of his patients. He was born one of seven children at the family farm in Coamo, an agrarian area of Puerto Rico (more so in 1912, when my grandfather was born).  He worked hard and  got into Villanova University in Philadelphia (no small feat when your commute to school involved a weeklong trip on a steam ship), where he got his medical degree.  

One of my favorite stories about my grandfather was that he and a friend would go to the some of the poorer Italian neighborhoods in Philadelphia on the weekends and provide free medical help.  The people they helped would then invite them to huge Sunday dinners to repay them for their help, which was great if you were a Puerto Rican in Philadelphia with little money of your own.  He lived a great life, traveling throughout the world and having adventures in the oddest places, like the time he ended up treating a relative of Harry Winston while taking on a steam ship to Spain.

 The main reason I bring this up is that I didn’t learn most of this about my Grandfather until after he died and I wish I had spent more time talking to him and learning about his life, I would now be a richer and better person for it. So for the Holidays I ask that you take some time out from the Egg Nog and Fruit Cake and talk to your elders a little more, maybe you’ll learn something you never knew before!

So before this post goes out of sight, Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

What I’m Thankful For This Thanksgiving
November 27, 2008, 5:01 pm
Filed under: Events, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On this Thanksgiving these are some of the things I am thankful for…

Everyone enjoy your turkey and stuffing and drive safely!

Vampire Cupcakes!
November 20, 2008, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Books, Food, Movies | Tags: , , , ,


Update: Kristen originally found these delicious treats on the Baking Bites blog.

Kristen made some great cupcakes for last Halloween and I wanted to share the recipe with you for the next time you are looking for a scary treat (or you’re getting amped for the release of the movie based on your favorite vampire novel).

Kristen's vampire cupcakes

Kristens Cupcakes

Kristen’s Vampire Cupcakes

Step 1. Make cupcakes using your favorite yellow cake mix, brand doesn’s matter, but just make sure you use a regular size muffin or cupcake pan. Dont try to use white cake mix for the recipe, the filling later on will just turn the cupcake to a pinkish hue and the effect is lost.

Step 2. Make the “blood” by pureeing cherry pie filling until its relatively smooth and liquid with no lumps (like real blood).

Step 3. Once the cupcakes are made and cooled, cut a piece out of the top of the cup cake that is about half the height of the cupcake. The piece that comes out should almost look like circular muffin top with a cone attached at the bottom, think cartoonish diamond shape if it helps.

Step 4. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the pie filling into the cavity in the cupcake. You may have to experiment and have a couple of test pieces to determine the relation between how big a piece you cut out in Step 3 versus the amount of liquid added.  The goal should be that a person biting in should get a good taste of the filling but not be wiping away their chin from the excess.  After adding the filling, replace the top on the cupcake.

Step 5. Time to frost! White or light colored frosting works best to show off the blood in Step 7, but feel free to use any flavor you like (we used cream cheese frosting on the ones in the picture). To frost, first put a thin layer on the cupcake around where the cut line from Step 3 is, this will help cover up the edge when completing the frosting. After the thin layer evens out the edge you can finish frosting the cupcake by piping it on the cupcake or just using a flat knife. 

Step 6. To make the fang marks there are a couple of techniques, but again, feel free to experiment to find a method you like (plus it means you can eat the “test cupcakes” in the name of science!). For ours we tries using a straw to cut out the hole (insert the straw into the cupcake and pull out), but while it made a good size hole, the cake got stuck in the straw and was difficult to get out. In the end we used a clean mean thermometer to poke into the cupcake and then mode the hole bigger by moving it around in a circular motion to expand the hole. Make sure you make the fang marks about an inch apart to look realistic.

Step 7. The final and most fun step is to add the “dripping blood” to the fang holes and the top of the cupcake. We used a straw to help us fill the fang holes (an eye dropper works well here too) and then used a toothpick to make the little blood trail.

Step 8. Eat and Enjoy!

Variation on this theme: Make the cupcakes with chocolate cake mix and chocolate frosting to make a Blackula Cupcake. Another thought was to add a white chocolate chip in with the filling for a cupcake to act as lost vampire tooth.

An 800 Word Rant on the Auto Bailout
November 13, 2008, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Events, politics | Tags: , , , ,

Two and a half years. That’s how long I’ve been working on my MBA so far (its a part time program). Spent the last two years learning how to read a balance sheet, how to calculate net present value and internal rate of return, how to talk to creative employees versus analytical employees. I might as well have gone to Culinary School. The free market ideology is getting its butt kicked (with help from a Republican President no less!) and everyone seems to be getting in line for the payout.

Here’s my beef with the bailout for automotive companies, its not that they shouldnt get one. We already threw out the concept of government interfering with financial markets a few months and $700 Billion dollars ago. Washington D.C. has already set a precedent and for better or for worse, they will likely do a bailout. Whats really ticking me off is that no one seems to really be upset about this (minus some libertarians) and that no one in Detroit seems to be asking “Do we deserve a bailout?”

Bailouts should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances outside of a company or industry’s control. The airlines were bailed out after September 11 because of the harm caused to the industry from outside, non-economic forces. Fannie and Freddie did not get into trouble because of some unexpected outside force, they started down that path because of bad management and a government that turned a blind eye to the situation until it was standing in front of them screaming like a 5 year old throwing a tantrum at Toys-R-Us. Similarly, the majority of banks and the insurance giants got into trouble by using risky business practices and not being able to rectify their activities in time before it was too late.

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Democracy Lessons from a Scotsman
November 6, 2008, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Events, Television | Tags: , , ,

Allright, so the election is over (finally!). I am as much a news and political junkie as there is out there, but this last election cycle took it all out of me. As with the way Michigan Football is going this season, my choice for President lost. Still, it was a historic night for America and its good to see more people interested and involved in the process (only to see their young idealism be crushed once reality sets in, but I digress). One of the nice things about this election cycle was that I started to watch the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and saw some of the funniest, wittiest stuff said about politics and the electorate in a long time. He doesnt espound one ideology or another, but just takes shots at both sides for what they are doing wrong and helps ground you as to what’s really important. I embedded one of my favorite clips from the past few months to show you what I mean, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

By the way, Ferguson is from Scotland, hence the title of this post.

Craig Ferguson on People who Don’t Vote