My first POP team meeting of summer 2012

As I lay here in bed, fighting a cold at 12:42am, I think about reps who don’t show up to a team meeting just because they’re “sick.” they can’t bring themselves to come to the office and invest their time for a brief 1.5 hours. I’ve been “sick” now for three days. I have a head cold that seems to worsen over time. I ran two interviews today coughing a terrible cough in between each sentence and I even had to wipe my nose with a tissue – in front of all the applicants – to keep my faucet from running too far. My fever bounced so high that I began to drip sweat down the side of my face before I even got to the “perks” section of the interview.

When you’re a branch manager, there’s no such thing as “call in sick.” you make thing happen regardless of your circumstance.

Tonight, I gave my first sales rep promotion to my newest potential leader, Anthony. It was an incredible, and unfamiliar feeling. Something I know I could never achieve without this managerial opportunity. They say you never forget your reps from your branch; I had six out of eight active reps on my team present tonight. And I poured every once of energy I had into them. Having a team to call your own, a team under your own office – what an amazing feeling. And it’s only just the beginning. Tomorrow, I will have the biggest training class of my summer yet. And it’s only my third training class. I’m so excited to build and create a name for SSF – our name will be on the maps. Watch out nation.

“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

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Gourmet Ghetto

Our last class trip was spent exploring the gourmet ghetto of Berkeley. We experienced the cheap, but good eats from Soop, African chocolate at Alegio, potato puffs at Gregoire, Margherita pizza at Cheese Board Pizza, meatloaf sandwiches from The Local Butcher Shop, original Peet’s coffee & tea and red wine at Vine Street Pumping Plant.

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My favorite moment was our brief visit inside the Cheese Board where I met a happy employee by the name of Jésus who would not let me leave without trying a piece of the Prima Donna and the Sheep Goat, both from Holland. He was like my cheerful grandpa who had the ability to make you feel special with something so familiar as cheese. I love meeting people who truly enjoy what they do in life, even selling cheese, like Jésus who is so happy that he can make others happy too.

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Oodles of Noodles

My boyfriend took me on my first tasty trip to Hima Wari Ramen House where we shared salmon fried rice and I indulged in my own bowl of Tan Tan Men – spicy chili miso flavored soup with ground pork and of course ramen noodle ingredients.

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My Mother (Interview/Blog Assignment #7)

As I sat next to my mother on our couch in the living room, I could not help but think to myself, there is not too many times that I actually sit down with her and discuss things like memorable experiences and past family history. In fact, the rare times that I do, it’s for a class project. The things my mother and I talk about on normal day are exciting things at work or school, relationships, and my future after college.

It was not news to me that as a child, I was never picky. I was not like the other kids in my class who would all go for the chocolate chip cookie rather than the peanut butter cookie.

My mom met most of her really good friends today, as I was growing up. She said, “recipes changed as I met new people. I am not afraid of food. I love eating and trying new restaurants which inspired me to experiment new flavors cooking at home.” Surprisingly enough, my mother never cooked before she started dating my father. She really picked up more heavier cooking once I was born. “Before I married your dad, I knew how to one dish. Scrambled eggs,” she said.

After a measly ten questions – not even half of the interview I had prepared for her – my mother was already trying to opt out of the rest and head to bed early! I understood though. My mother is one of the hardest-working women I know and I hope one day to obtain the same work ethic as she. But I didn’t let her sleep yet. I was compelled to the end of my interview not only to get the assignment done for class, but more so to dig deeper; we had just began to open up to the meat of my mother’s food history.

So she continued, “As a kid you were, and still are, a polite, sensitive, loving, compassionate, strong-willed, caring, stubborn daydreamer. You appreciated all the foods I prepared and enjoyed every restaurant we dragged you to. When you were just two-years-old you were eating raw sushi!”

My mother cooked more than my father did because she wanted my younger sister and I to have fun trying different dishes. My father is a good cook, but he’s comfortable cooking his usual. “I over eat whenever he makes his pork rib adobo! My favorite Filipino dish,” she says.
As we narrowed in on the end, my favorite part about the interview was finding out how humorous I was a child. When I asked her if there was anything special that reminds her of me, her response was “Well, according to you, I made hash browns when you were in third grade.” My mother never made has browns when I was in third grade. She concluded, “I don’t know where you go that from.”

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Exploring The Mission District (Blog Assignment #6)

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I love the city – every aspect of it. I was thrilled to visit the Mission District. It’s one of the places in the city I love to revisit over and over again for the El Farolito burritos and the fancy dinners at Foreign Cinema. One of the major reasons for my constant drives down 24th street is for my favorite dance class: hip hop with Allan Frias (I recommend to EVERYONE). However,  I was most excited to explore the deeper roots of the Mission District.

Our journey begins at La Victoria Bakery – the Mission’s past and present soul – where we meet our tour guide, Emunah. The bakery in the city and was founded more than 60 years ago. What I enjoy most about this bakery is that it is family owned and you can tell by the decor that the establishment carries a lot of history behind it’s sky blue 1950’s wall paper running across the ceiling and colorful paper cutouts strung across its walls in honor of Dia De Los Muertos. The focus of the bakery owners is to “satisfy the traditional customers – who look for the pan dulce or the conchan (shell) bread – as well as the ones who want to try new things (the smoked vanilla cupcake).”My favorite pastry bread is the suvadela:very airy, least dense and most sugary of the three breads I tried. The bread dissolves into a sweet powder with the first bite.

We continue to the next destination, La Palma. La Palma is the Mexican version of an Italian delicatessen, they call it Mexica-tessen. Take a good bite into your first hurachas – a cross between a papusa stuffed with black beans and soft taco laid flat, covered in a cabbage and salsa party. I could five in this one sitting.

My favorite part is next. Let six of us squeeze into a four-person booth as we over indulge in the tomatino and guacamole salsa before diving into one of the best tacos that my mouth has ever met. Al pastor: tender barbequed pork thrown on a grill and slowly cooked to perfection; a Lebanese immigration influence. Al pastor tacos are my must-haves. Now, al pastor tacos from El Farolito are my new must-haves.

Humphry Slocumbe Ice Cream shop invites us over next. We are treated to three samples of unfamiliar flavors; Sweet Bourbon, Chocolate Smoked Sea Salt and Tahitian Vanilla. I pick the Tahitian Vanilla on a sugar cone and the dessert takes me on a sweet trip to a tropical shore. The taste is like coconut swirled in vanilla bean with a tangy after taste that reminds me of an orange or perhaps a pineapple.

We take detour down Balmy lane where artists paint their past struggles and future hopes across garage doors and wooden fences. A red velvet cupcake from Mission Minis lightens the mood. Then we warm our taste buds and awaken our senses at Grand Coffee with a Colombian blend.

Our exploration ends in a dark hole-in-the-wall, Mr. Pollo, where between the hours of 6pm and 8pm, people wait two hours just to have dinner. I layered my already full and expanded stomach with Ivan’s smoked chantaleno cheese polenta on top smoked plantains and sprinkled with arugala. The experience is warm, salty, creamy and quickly chased by a sweet burnt banana mastery.

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Chopped Experience (Blog Assignment #5)

After all 26 of my classmates and I each threw in three pieces torn from binder paper into a paper bag, my professor brought the bag around the room for each of us to pick out random ingredients to cook with. I was excited to see my anonymous selections were agave nectar, risotto and red wine – “pretty easy” I thought.

Well, I was wrong. The recipes were the easiest to select from a quick google search, but finding the agave nectar alone plus the additional ingredients required in the recipes took me nearly an hour to find. After walking up and down the same three isles, thinking agave nectar would magically appear, I finally asked for some delayed assistance. Turns out Safeway does not carry agave nectar. In fact, no grocery store with in a decent driving distance carried the exotic ingredient. So, I quickly thought of a substitute and found myself on my tip toes reaching for a $6 bottle of Honey Creme Syrup. I wrapped up my extended stay in the grocery store and 45 dollars later, I was buzzed from two glasses of Robert Mondavi Private Selection wondering what part of my seemingly intellectual mind thought that making risotto from complete scratch at 8:30pm would be a good idea. Thewait was well worth it. As I let the risotto simmer over, I baked some brie cheese as an appetizer – complimented by wheat thins – and marinated the chicken breasts in olive oil, spices like red pepper, brown sugar, paprika and minced garlic. Later, about 10 minutes later, I poured one cup of Chianti red wine over the chicken and lightly basted the breasts for about 15 minutes.

It was quite the romantic Tuesday night for my boyfriend and me. I was so full from the white wine with the sweet brie and the one glass of red wine that my boyfriend finished the rest of my chicken and risotto.

Over all, it was a great experience and an impressive meal. It was the first time I explored with risotto and fancy brie. I think next time, I’ll cook the chicken breasts a little shorter to save the natural juices to keep them more tender and I’ll be a little more patient with the risotto to allow the grains to expand and soften up more.

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Burgers Baby

I enjoyed a luncheon on Sunday at the Burger Bar atop Macy’s Union Square where I spent time with my boyfriend, my family and my mother’s co-workers. I ordered the Irish Mint milkshake (rum, mint, vanilla and oreo cookie), skinny fries and the jalapeno burger.

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