A new restaurant means a long meal and a chance to observe chaos and frustration with the staff.

We dined at Agrodolce, the new Italian restaurant with the same owner as the popular Trattoria la Siciliana. The old Italian lady and the chef, who should be the owners, display an evening of yelling at clueless, inexperienced servers while (trying to) greet grumpy, hungry customers with smiles and apologies.

Food is much better than Trattoria la Siciliana. I look forward to coming back when they have figured out the logistics.


The Mak's Fried Chicken

Photo by my friend @eliphantc

With my adaptation based on Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc recipe on Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Chicken Brine
(For 2 pounds of chicken - either thigh, drumstick, or breast)
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 head garlic
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 quart water
The Lazy Version of Chicken Brine
  • 1/2 cup salt and 2 quart water. Don't bother with boiling and chilling.
  • Combine all in a large pot, cover, bring to a boil, let cool. Chill before using.
  • Place chicken pieces in brine for at least 4 hours, up to 12 hours.
Photo by the author
Flour Coating  
  • 1.5 cup AP flour
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
The Lazy Version of Flour Coating
  • 1.5 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Lay out 3 dishes or bowls and a roasting pan in a row.
  • Place flour coating in 1st and 3rd dishes.
  • Place buttermilk in 2nd dish.
  • Dry all chicken pieces thoroughly with paper towel.
  • Use one hand (the dry hand) to place each chicken piece in 1st dish. Coat. Put into 2nd dish.
  • Use second hand (the wet hand) to coat in 2nd dish. Put into 3rd dish.
  • Use first hand (the dry hand) to coat chicken piece in 3rd dish. Then place on roasting pan.
  • After all is done, refrigerate for an hour to make sure coating is firmly placed on chicken pieces.
  • Heat up frying oil (Be really careful and don't burn down your house!) to 375 F.
  • If chicken pieces are bone-in: Fry drumsticks or thighs for about 15 minutes until internal temperature reaches 165 F.
  • If chicken pieces are boneless: Breast or boneless thighs can be fried for about 8 to 10 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 F. If pieces are small (like bite size) the timing can be even shorter.
  • Rest on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite sauces (optional).
  • Do not put more oil than half of your pan height.
  • I love using my Chinese wok. A cast iron pan can work too. A small sauce pan can be used for a small portion. A fryer may work best to minimize mess.
  • Make sure your pot or wok is well stabilized. Turn up kitchen hood to max.
  • Prevent burning (dark skin) by managing your oil temperature. If it exceeds 400 F chicken pieces will burn quickly.
  • Prevent soggy chicken by managing oil temperature to drop not under 325 F.
Photo by the author













Chef Mak's Prime Rib

1. how to pick the rib
  • get bone-in for better flavor. boneless lacks that extra juice 
  • get the best you are willing to afford
  • pick nice color and well distributed marble 
  • one rib is about 2 pounds and can feed 2 generously. for this time I got 3 ribs, 6 lbs total, good for 6. 
  • dont be afraid to ask the butcher what choices they have. they are willing to bring it out from the fridge. usually you can pick how many ribs to cut and which side you like. the smaller side is juicier with more fat, the larger side has more meat. ask butcher to show you both sides and pick your choice. this time I picked the smaller side thus 6 lbs. last time i picked larger side and was 7 lbs
  • ask the butcher to separate the bone and tie it together for you. see the pictures (this will save you time in cutting the rib when it is cooked)
2. how to prepare 
  • sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper generously. Garlic is optional - some people like to have minced garlic stuffed into the meat. I just spread it over. some recipes ask for more herbs to be put all over the sides too. this is for your personal preference. I find these to be less significant than real good beef. Leave it overnight.
3. how to cook
  • Bring the rib to room temperature hours before roasting. This will ensure even cooking.
  • Heat oven to 225F. Put the rib, bone-side down, on a stainless steel or cast iron pan. Remember you will use the pan to make the jus later so anything with handle is easier to use. Put the rib into the oven and cook for at least 2 hours, depending on your rib size.
  • Check interior temperature every 15 minutes after 1.5 hours. For medium rare, take it out at 120F.
  • Let the rib sit outside of oven for a while. In the meantime heat up the oven to 500F for the final roast.
  • Before serving, put the rib back into the oven and sear for 5 minutes at 500F to produce the flavorful, burnt crust.
4. how to prepare the jus
  • Leave the rib on the cutting board. Remove most of the fat in the pan but leave a bit. Pour 1 cup of red wine into the pan. Scrap up all the brown bits to be cooked together with the wine. Let it cook and reduce for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Voila! Made with Heartbrand Akaushi Beef.



I am going to hear the UC Symphony this Saturday evening. It's time to study the Lutosławski Symphony No.4 on youtube...

(Photo from UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra)


Costume party at the UC Symphony!


10.26.2014 Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, CA
Schubert: The Last Piano Sonatas, D.958-960 / Richard Goode, pianist


(Photo: Steve Riskind)


Supporting UC Berkeley Symphony.

 It must have been 2 or 3 years since I last attended a concert by the UC Symphony. These kids play with passion, and their smiling and nodding and glancing one another is so much fun to watch. The eruption of applause after Tchaikovsky 6's third movement was both "illiterate" and appropriate.


Scriabin: 24 Preludes, Op. 11 / Mikhail Pletnev, piano


Loneliness -
Insisting on making magnificent music even without companions.

[on hearing Tetzlaff's recital with Bach's complete Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin]



March 1, 2014

Women of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus
San Francisco Girls Chorus
San Francisco Symphony
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor

Mahler: Symphony No. 3

San Francisco Symphony 與 Michael Tilson Thomas 演奏馬勒第三,探究大自然和人的關係,生機盎然,彷如置身歐洲之田園。


Shai Wosner 的舒伯特

November 24, 2013 - 3pm - Hertz Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Shai Wosner, piano

Schubert: 3 Piano Pieces, D.946
Widmann: Idyll and Abyss: Six Schubert Reminiscences (2009)
Schubert: Sonata in A major, D.664
Schubert: Sonata in B-flat major, D.960

Encore: Schubert: Hungarian Melody, D.817

聽一線明星以外的音樂家演奏,可以逼耳朵去除既有的印象成見,考考自己接受驚喜的程度。從未聽過 Shai Wosner 這位鋼琴家,但加州大學 Cal Performances 邀請他演奏全舒伯特曲目,想必有驚異之處,我這位舒伯特迷沒理由不聽。

甫出手的 D.946 已可窺見他乾淨俐落的手法,雄壯而快速,大刀闊斧地展開樂章。這更常見於貝多芬的作品,強調結構和對比,而我聽開的 Lupu 、Brendel 、Perahia 等前輩都刻意突顯舒伯特模糊的調性,和細緻纖幼的旋律。不過 Wosner 的手法就反映舒伯特和貝多芬的「師徒」連繫,舒伯特筆下的結構和對比亦更明顯。第二首 E-flat 大調的簡單旋律,Wosner 就真的很直接、天真的彈出來,沒有刻意在轉調的地方沉溺。

中間 Jörg Widmann 的現代作品捕捉了舒伯特音樂世界的精髓,第一首 "Unreal, as if from afar" 左手跟隨傳統的基本和弦,配上高音的不協調音;第三首 "like a lullaby" 很有嬰兒床上玩具的感覺;第六首 "Mournful, desolate" 引用了 D.960 ,在絕望中有天真。

隨後的兩首奏鳴曲都沿用同一雄壯的手法,難得是 Wosner 在大樂章裏更加着重結構性,音量強弱的處理恰當,那些 p / pp 音量但快速滑行的音符(可説是舒伯特的簽名!)效果非常好。只是我聽開 Brendel 和 Lupu 處理的舒伯特有很強療傷的味道,Wosner 的舒伯特少了療傷多了理性内歛的火花,也是一種驚喜。

Wosner 剛開始錄製舒伯特奏鳴曲,預計數年内錄完,舒迷可以留意。


蕭邦夜曲/鄧泰山 (Dang Thai Son)

蕭邦夜曲/鄧泰山 (Dang Thai Son)


Yuja Wang - Rachmaninov, Prokofiev

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2
Yuja Wang / Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela / Gustavo Dudamel

Passionate, as expected from Yuja and Dudamel. Reminds me of Argerich, but Argerich is passionate + spontaneous + a lot more convincing + moving. This is solid performance, but shy of impressive. Dudamel and his young orchestra has nothing much to show until the last climax in the 3rd movement, where their signature energy bursts out - a highlight of the performance. Sound Engineer A must have something to say about the recording - why is the sound so thin?


Yuja + Schiff

A food analogy: If Yuja Wang's recital last night was a dazzling display of flavors and visual excitement, the 60-year-old Andras Schiff's music is the perfect slow-cooked comfort food - rich and nutritious.

Some music just needs a certain amount of time for it to ripen.

Oct 6, 2013 - Andras Schiff recital
J.S. Bach - Six Partitas
Encore: Two-Part Invention in C major

Oct 13, 2013 - Andras Schiff recital
J.S. Bach - Goldberg Variations
Beethoven - Diabelli Variations
Encore: Last movement from Beethoven's Sonata in C, Op. 111


Yuja Wang's recital @ SF

Yuja plays like a real virtuoso from the golden age of pianists. Brava!

Yuja Wang 王羽佳's piano recital:

Prokofiev Sonata #3
Chopin Sonata #3
Kasputin Variations
Chopin Nocturne op.48/1, Ballade #3
Stravinsky Petrushka
Encores: Arrangements of Art Tatum's "Tea for Two", Bizet's Carmen, Rachmaninov's Vocalise

 Signature 90 degree bow from Yuja.


Zhu Xiao-Mei - Bach, WTC II

Zhu Xiao-Mei (朱曉玫) - J.S. Bach, Well Tempered Clavier Book II

A prodigy raised in China but then banned from playing piano during the Cultural Revolution, then migrated to Paris, continued her study, and became a professor at the Conservatoire de Paris, Zhu is not an international superstar nor a recording icon. Yet, she receives high praise from the inner circle and her recitals are always sold out. It sparked my curiosity to find out more about her.

I had high expectations for this CD - a pianist can't hide anything behind WTC, and Book II is my favorite "bible book" - and I am not disappointed! Amazing colors are hard to find in Bach, but Zhu does it so well, AND with such moving motion and energy! This can't replace Richter or Schiff, and you can pick out technical details (trills, tempo, consistency, etc.) that could be improved. But who can resist a story teller that draws you into the music so well? This will definitely stay in my daily bread collection for quite a while.


Beethoven Quartets

Been repeatedly listening to Beethoven's string quartets lately, and it's really tough to choose between the 4 recordings I have (Vegh, Guarneri, Takacs, Emerson):

individual talent is exciting,
but team work is satisfying;
a gutsy tone keeps you on the edge of your seat,
but a nice intonation puts you to sleep in relaxation;
modern digital recording is crisp and clear,
but the old-world sound is warm and comforting...

I can see parallels between string quartets and marriages!


Movie: A Late Quartet

Revolving around the final performance of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op.131, the quartet members face their own desires and problems in playing music, in love and marriages, and in "life as a mess." The musical part is convincing – It irritates me that I’m missing out a lot as a pianist. The dramatic part not so much. I wish the conflicts and the mess-ups can be portrayed more coherently.



"Fidelity is like a phoenix: Everyone talks about it, but no one has ever seen one."
- Cosi fan tutte




1. 家中長輩學藝不精,響屋企唱得太差;
2. 舊錄音單聲道,沙沙聲;
3. 無啦啦一段折子戲,唔知頭唔知路;又聽唔明歌詞。


1. 勁嘅人係唱得勁好多!
2. 現場音樂清澈、立體。劇情推進時氣勢磅礡(<香劫>、<上表>),轉眼間又可柔情似水(<庵遇>、<香夭>)。
3. 旁邊有打歌詞,即刻明晒!故事引人入勝,處處用典。<庵遇>一幕,男女主角用情真摯,音樂細膩感人,真與 La Boheme 第一幕有異曲同工之妙。


再談席夫 (András Schiff)

András Schiff (Photo: Sheila Rock)

這數年間,席夫 (András Schiff) 在三藩市灣區演出的次數不少,實是我等樂迷之福。繼兩季共八場貝多芬奏鳴曲全集後,來年 2012-13 季度,席夫會與三藩市交響樂團合作 "Project San Francisco",指揮及彈奏巴哈兩首協奏曲,還有四場獨奏巴哈《平均律》兩冊全集、法國組曲及英國組曲!真是荷包大出血。

二月廿九日席夫在柏克萊的獨奏會,演奏巴哈《三部創意曲》 (Three-part Inventions)、巴托克《奏鳴曲》與貝多芬《狄亞貝里變奏曲》 (Diabelli Variations)。巴哈是一貫神乎其技的無踏板,貝多芬與之前的奏鳴曲演繹一脈相連,最有趣的是巴托克的《奏鳴曲》。(勾起了高中好友的回憶;還有那恐怖經歷...)席夫在敲擊聲中保持旋律的優美和層次的鮮明,雖然缺了點刺激,但巴托克所引用的匈牙利民謠立體地浮現。尤其是慢板的旋律塑造得美不勝收,可以想像用「美不勝收」來形容巴托克嗎?


BACH: Six Partitas / Schiff / ECM
巴哈 《德國組曲》:全新演奏會現場錄音!把我之前喜歡的 Perahia 版掃在一邊...

BARTOK: Piano Concertos / Schiff, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer / Warner Classics


三藩市 Fort Point 人像

在金門橋底的 Fort Point 曾是軍事用地,鎮守美國西邊的入口金門。此處很有歷史特色,可惜今次準備不足,未能好好利用。













The English Concert / Trevor Pinnock





因為我家只有兩個男人,我只好尷尬地向室友解釋:「這是給我妹妹的。」 ^____^|||