Crazy Baking for a Big Brunch

Friday morning was the beginning. I knew I had a busy weekend ahead of me, although I’m not sure I fully grasped how crazy it would be. Nevertheless, I started out on the early side to try to make the most of the day. My driver was supposed to meet me at the back of the mercado at 8:30, and I knew I could accomplish a bit more on my walk over there.

Stop #1: Hansel & Gretel

This tiny shop is a little on the pricey side, but they had a lot of stuff people like me are looking for. I picked up more of the Picsa 70% dark chocolate, dark cocoa powder and molasses.

Stop #2: Ferretería España

This hardware store has devoted their upstairs to kitchen supplies. Picked up some mixing bowls, a square baking dish for the cinnamon rolls and a large cutting board.

Stop #3: Despensa Familiar

A smaller market than the Bodgeona, they sometimes have a wider variety of pantry staples. While thinking I might just browse, I ended up purchasing some oats (rolled and ground). I noticed they also had the large 25-pound sacks of sugar that I was getting from the market, but for Q2 (twenty-ish cents) cheaper. Good to know for the future.

Oat flour at Despensa.

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Work & Play

My first full week in Antigua, as a resident, kicked off bright and early Monday morning with a trip to El Mástil, to get an EcoFiltro. Without water I can drink, and Internet I can use, I wasn’t going to move into my place. Mindy and Carlos had been very accommodating and I didn’t want to take advantage of their hospitality. Hopefully I could solve both of these problems quickly.

Maybe my next faucet.

This time, having received some guidance from Mindy, I was able to find the store located behind the mercado. I selected an EcoFiltro quickly, but decided to look around before moving on. Unlike most hardware stores, where you can wander the aisles, everything is on display behind cases when you walk in. You have to go up to the counter and place your order. Then, you bring a receipt to the cashier and pay for it. After that, you bring it to a different counter where they either hand you the item(s), or they direct you to the back, to pick up the larger stuff, where a fourth person has now been involved with your purchase.

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A Weekend of Ups and Downs

FRIDAY

It was a field trip day! Carlos, who grew up in Guatemala City, has been getting haircuts from the same woman since he was young. So when it’s time for a haircut, it turns into a daylong excursion. Mindy and Carlos asked me if I wanted to join in, and I said, “Of course!”

They actually added our first stop purely on my account, although it was a place of interest as well to Carlos, the cook. Superb is a specialty spice shop, and a place multiple people told me is the place to go for good spices.

Spice store!

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Forward Progress…Mostly

I woke up last Wednesday morning rested and eager to start my first full day. I finally got to see Mindy, and I told her all I’d accomplished upon arrival. I had an agenda for day two, and was hoping for similar success. First stop was the gym that’s down the street from the new place, and I quickly signed up for my membership. I’d worked out there during my February trip, and liked it, although it wasn’t as robust as the gym I’d used regularly during my long stay a few years ago. However, when one is a block away and the other is a fifteen minute walk, I know I’ll go more often to the close one.

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Embarking on the Guatemala Adventure

The whirlwind of the last few days in LA, and especially the very last day (see previous post), made arriving at the airport feel like both a relief and an additional stress. On one hand, I was finally here! It was happening! On the other hand, it seemed like the frustrations of the day merely continued.

I was checking four items: three suitcases and one boxed Kitchenaid stand mixer. On the phone with Delta the previous week, I’d been told that my platinum Amex card would entitle me to three free checked bags. I called back later to verify this, because it surprised me, and was told I could check two for free. Both times I’d been placed on hold to verify and both times, the agent seemed supremely confident in their answer. So while I was hoping for three free, I was prepared for two. 

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Final Weekend in Los Angeles

With the movers out of the apartment, and after some tidying up on my part, I headed to Kasey’s. Ailene was coming in for the weekend and we were excited for a big, blowout, farewell celebration. Loosen your belts, people…it’s time to eat!

Pre-dinner bread and (cayenne-honey) butter at Kasey’s.

I brought almost everything that remained in the fridge over to Kasey’s that night. We’d had tentative lunch plans (she was working from home, and figured movers would be done on the early side), but she got busy with work stuff and I wanted to tidy up a bit of what was left behind. In the end, I headed over to her place in the late afternoon with the additional ingredients, as well as the bread I’d baked while the movers were working. She whipped up some special butter, and her new apartment-mates and I enjoyed the snack.

Rooftop views from Kasey’s.

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Farewell Tour

Once the decision was made in early February that I would, in fact, take my baking to Guatemala, I tried to make the most of my final month in Los Angeles. It was going to be hard to leave, with my family and friends (both old and new) there. I never expected upon returning that I’d only be there a year, but it was an extra year I never expected to spend so close to all these wonderful people, so I look at it as a bonus from that point of view.

Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung.

I first discovered the magic of XLB (“soup dumplings”) while on the Curiosity Crawl during pastry school (first post here, final ranking here). Din Tai Fung is famous for their XLB, among other things, and started in Hong Kong before opening some places in the US. These were smaller (some pork, some pork and crab) but still very good. But I don’t think anything beats Shanghai Dumpling King.

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