Steven Pinkert in Fragrant Hills Park and Nala Restaurant Beijing

Yesterday Steven Pinkert, his friend Peter Jiang, and Peter’s mother and father, took a drive to the northwest side of Beijing to visit Fragrant Hills Park.  Fragrant Hills Park is located in the eastern section of Beijing’s western hills and is about a hour drive from Beijing’s CBD (Central Business District) – depending upon traffic which is frequently a nightmare in Beijing.

steven pinkert and Peter Jiang

Steven Pinkert and Peter Jiang

Fragrant Hills Park was begun in the 12th century by the Jin Dynasty and expanded by subsequent dynasties.  There are paths up to the summit with an elevation of about 1800 feet and all the paths are full of cultural relics, beautifully preserved structures and some exquisite foliage. Although the author, Steven Pinkert, has been to Beijing some 40 times he has never see this fantastic park before this weekend in Beijing.

Steven Pinkert Fragrant Hills hotel

Steven Pinkert - Fragrant Hills Hotel

As it is an early Spring weekend the park had thousands of visitors – a mixture mostly of Chinese from all over China.  Most people visit the park by bus and there is a large bus station adjacent to the park. Parking as in most of Beijing is extremely difficult so any alternative to driving is recommended. Taxis are a possibility but I have no idea how difficult it will be to locate a return taxi.  The taxi ride will be quite expensive and locating taxis, particularly outside the Central Business District, can frequently be a serious challenge. During this past week Steven Pinkert typically waited over 30 minutes for a taxi from the hotel and from other locations!

After a long and exhilarating walk Steven Pinkert was a bit winded.  The elevations of some of the walks are quite steep but there are also many level walks to choose from. The highlights of the park are the beautifully kept brightly painted structures against the spectacular mountain backdrop  It was cool and sunny with an atypical Beijing blue sky. As the sun set the temperature dropped rapidly and so we headed to one of my favorite Beijing restaurants, Nala Restaurant.

Steven Pinkert Review of Nala Restaurant Beijing

Nala Restaurant, according to Steven Pinkert, is fantastic.  There are three Nala Restaurants in Beijing, all owned by the same family for 30 years.  The menu is varied seasonally but there is one particular regular item that must not be missed – by anyone visiting Beijing – the sugar fried shrimp. This dish is quite simple. Large shrimp are quickly fried in oil then a final fry in sugar syrup or molasses.  This is truly one of the best dishes in all of Beijing and mostly unknown by foreigners. Steven Pinkert takes all his Beijing guests to Nala. There is a Nala Restaurant in Fragrant Hills Park area and another just a block west on the street behind the LG Twin Towers in the central Business District.

“Beijing’s Fragrant Hills Park and Nala Restaurant are not to be missed” promises Steven Pinkert.

Steven Pinkert Can’t Believe How People Monkey Around in Beijing

As Steven Pinkert has discussed in his personal blog elsewhere he is currently working in Beijing, China for a week.  Last night he was at Bellagios for a late dinner.  Bellagios located in the Workers Stadium are of Beijing is a very upscale bistro style restaurant that serves excellent Szechuan and Taiwanese style food at a fair price.  Bellagios is a great place to know about in Beijing as unlike most Beijing restaurants that close at about 10:00 pm, Bellagios is open until 4am most days.

At his home in Miami Steven Pinkert is usually asleep by 10:00pm, but when you travel to Asia from the United States you are sometimes so jet lagged that you fall asleep, miss dinner, and wake up at midnight with the only option being room service.  The answer – at least in Beijing is Bellagios.

Steven Pinkert finds a Monkey at Bellagios

As I was leaving Bellagios I passed by a table of 4 young guys and unbelievably one of the guys has a monkey actually eating at the table while sitting on his lap. Unbelievable – and he allowed me to snap his picture.

Beijing Monkey

Monkey in a Beijing Restaurant Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Steven Pinkert’s summary – “Only in China”

Steven Pinkert Returns to Carl’s Hot Dogs

After 50 years Steven Pinkert had the chance to return to Carl’s Hot Dogs on the Southside of Chicago

As kid, Carls Hot Dogs (actually the name is Carl’s Red Hots but we call it Carl’s Hot Dogs), located at 83rd and Jeffrey, was one of Phil Graff’s and Steven Pinkert’s favorite haunts.  We loved Chicago style Vienna hot dogs and still do to this day.  As kids we used to imitate Carl making the dogs and we even had a jingle that we created that we sang as we played and pretended that we were making hot dogs. We had bowls of water instead of real condiments that we would pretend to ladle onto each hot dog we lovingly prepared.

Over the years, I have tried many hot dog joints but I fondly remembered Carls. As a kid Carl’s Hot Dogs were only 25 cents so we could always afford it.  I worked at Nolans Radio Repair shop which was just 2 blocks or so from Carls on 83rd Street and so I would frequently run to Carls for lunch.

Monday I left Miami for Beijing and had a long layover in Chicago. So Phil picked me up at O’Hare airport and we headed down to Carls.  This was about an hour drive from the airport as traffic wasn’t too bad – and Phil took the scenic route along Lake Shore Drive which was fine with me.

Steven Pinkert’s Old House on Yates in Chicago

We drove by my old house on Yates where I lived until age 15.  It looked much smaller than I remembered.and this observations was confirmed by my sisters as I emailed them a photo of the old house on the fly.

 

Steven Pinkert's home age 7-15, 8444 S. Yates, Chicago

Steven Pinkert's home from age 7-15, 8444 S. Yates, Chicago, Illinois

We continued on our tour past Phil’s old home which has been beautifully preserved and brought back so many memories.  The area where we dug tunnels and mined “coral” is now just a parking lot. Sad, as kids we had so much fun playing in the undeveloped patches of land on our neighborhood. Now everywhere you look you see either a structure or pavement.

We finally arrive at Carls

Carls has moved across the street from the original location and its former self is a shadow of what it is today.  When I was a kid, Carls was a little run down wooden yellow shack no more than a few hundred square feet.  Now it is a nice sized modern building – pretty slicked up for an “original” Chicago hot dog stand.  The renovation worried us…

 

Steven Pinkert at Carls Hotdog

Steven Pinkert in front of the Carls

Phill and I went inside and ordered 2 hotdogs each with fries and diet cokes.  The tab came to about $15 which seemed fair – if they were good.  Carls by the way has been in business since 1954! It is incredible that they have survived all these years given the short half life of most restaurants.

Steven Pinkert inside Carls

Steven Pinkert Inside the Famous Carls Red Hots in Chicago

So how were the dogs? The hot dogs were just like Steven Pinkert and Phil Graff remembered them.  Perfect spicy Vienna beef dogs with all the trimmings, and the fries were crispy – different from the greasy fries they served when we were kids. The hot dogs snapped just a drop when you bit into them – almost perfect! The only disappointment was that the buns lacked poppy seeds which is critical in my opinion for a perfect Chicago Style hot dog.

Here is a nice shot of Steven Pinkert and Phil Graff inside Carls.  Note my expression of excitement and anticipation as we waited for them to make our dogs.

 

Steven Pinkert and Phil Graff

Steven Pinkert and Phil Graff Return to Carls After 50 Years

 

Steven Pinkert Segways Around Miami

Steven Pinkert says “if you have never tried to ride a Segway you are missing out.

The Segway is a unique form of human transport because it balances the rider in a vertical position on a single axle. The Segway is able to do this with an accelerometer just like in your Iphone so it can sense the angle of the rider and a gyroscope.  If you can imagine riding an electrically powered unicycle that balances itself you get the idea of riding a Segway.

Steven Pinkert, his wife Sherma, Joe, Helene, Stan, Lisa, Ellen and Larry all rented Segways at Bayfront Park in Miami on Saturday and toured around the river area for an hour.  It was terrific. The weather was perfect, and the river area around Biscayne and Brickell are beautiful! We stopped at a number of sites including the Miami Circle. And some of the scenes along the river and ocean are just spectacular and watching the world go by on a Segway gives an exhilarating sense of freedom.  It is hard to explain why but try it.Touring together with friends is a great way to spend time together and sure beats the usual dinner and a movie.

 

The Segway Miami Boys

Steven Pinkert one of the Segway Miami Boys

We decided to go with a guide, which although not required made things safer – in particular so we could avoid curbs and road hazards. After our ride we had a good lunch at Lombardis also located at Bayfront.  The flatbread at Lombardis is some of the best in Miami.

The Segway Miami Girls

The Segway Miami Girls - "Posing"

Steven Pinkert recommends riding a Segway in Miami.

Steven Pinkert’s son, Ian Pinkert, Graduates from Georgetown Law School

Steven Pinkert Son Graduates from Law School

Although I try and blog timely this is a very funny video that Steven Pinkert took at his son Ian’s Georgetown Law School graduation about two years ago. In the video there are a few students that precede Ian and then Ian comes forward to receive his diploma.  True to form everyone finds Ian to be very funny.   I don’t want to give away too much so just watch the video.

Ian is very happy working as a plaintiff’s products liability lawyer here in Miami.

Steven Pinkert is blessed and says, “life is good”

Steven Pinkert Makes Barbecue Baby Back Ribs for the Family

Steven Pinkert has learned to make great BBQ baby back ribs.  Last night he invited a few family members over and served, among other things his specialty baby back ribs.  We love BBQ ribs almost as much as we love Chicago Hot Dogs. (For my recipe on Chicago Style Hot Dogs check out www.stevenpinkert.com.)

Actually I don’t BBQ the ribs, I smoke them.  Here is how I prepare them.  I use lean slabs of ribs that I generally purchase from Whole Foods.  I preheat the oven to 350 and add a rub to the ribs with plenty of thin lemon slices on top of each slab.  Into the oven for one hour.

After baking for an hour brush a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce on both sides of each slab.  I make my own sauce with ketchup, tomato paste, chopped jalapeño or habanero peppers, chopped onions, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, chopped scallions, salt, and pepper.  Just mix these ingredients to your taste it is difficult to mess up the sauce as long as you only add the hot peppers to your taste.

I use a Bradley Smoker because of the convenience. The Bradley feeds the wood chips in the form of pucks into the smoker continuously and automatically so Steven Pinkert doesn’t have to keep adding wood chips.  I set the smoker temperature to 280 degrees and usually I use Apple wood pucks rather than hickory. I think that hickory smoke is a bit heavy for the ribs. I smoke for 2 to 3 hours depending on how thick the ribs are.  If the slab is lean about 2 hours and 15 minutes should do.  Also, I only smoke the ribs actively for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or I find the rib’s flavor are a bit too smokey.

We had a great time and though I admit that I slightly overcooked the ribs we loved them and all had a great time.  We also barbecued chicken, had rocket salad that we grow in our garden and baked potatoes.

Sherma also made baked kale chips which are so good Steven Pinkert cannot stop eating them.  Steven’s father and his son Ian had a great time.

Steven Pinkert: “Life is good”

Steven Pinkert Encounters Swimming Pigs

Recently I was in the Bahamas for a few days staying with my father on Harbor Island.  Harbor Island is just 2 miles East of Eleuthera. In case you are interested here is nice link to a map of Eleuthera.

Harbor Island is a bit for the jet set (which I am not).  It has very famous spectacular pink sand beaches and some pretty darn good restaurants.  The water surrounding the island is just a beautiful blue and indigo. I guess Harbor Island is kind of the St. Barts of the Bahamas.

Steven Pinkert and his father took their boat to Staniel Cay which is in the Bahamian Exuma Island chain.  Staniel Cay’s fame is the Thunderball Cave where the  1965 James Bond movie was filmed.  It is still quite beautiful to snorkel in this cave and I highly recommend it. Staniel has a yacht club – a small quiet resort island.

Steven Pinkert Meets the Pigs

But on way to Staniel we passed an island that was incredible.  There were pigs on the beach and as we sailed by they actually swam out to meet, eat and greet our boat. It is quite an amazing thing to see.  Here is good a link to an excellent you tube video taken by a vacationer. Swimming Pig Video.  I will post some of my photos of the pigs shortly.

Steven Pinkert says “if you are in the Exumas – don’t miss seeing the pigs”

Princessa Our Feral Cat

Hard for Steven Pinkert to Appreciate a Feral Cat

Steven Pinkert’s wife, Sherma, pointed out that Steven neglected to mention their feral cat Princessa, in his earlier pet story. Perhaps there is a reason…

I really don’t care for this cat. I mean I don’t hate it but we are not shall I say very attached. It lives outside of our home and my wife has adopted it by plying it with food.  And now their “intimate” relationship has extended for over 7 years.  Lets face it, me and Princessa got off to a rough start. In the first week that it appeared it would hiss at me whenever it saw me in my backyard.  You couldn’t approach it (even today you still can’t approach it but now it no longer hisses). It lived outside, was feral, and not too friendly towards anyone.

Princessa the Feral Cat Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

But we got off to a much worse start.  One day in the first few weeks when it was hanging out – on and off in our backyard, and Sherma was out of town, I noticed that the cat had disappeared from the backyard for a few days.

That night I heard a cat crying and upon investigation found that Princessa was hold up in one of our bathroom, screaming in the corner and getting even more agitated when she saw me.  So I called a service to remove the cat – I mean it wasn’t our cat. It was a stray feral cat, right?  They captured Princessa with a noose at the end of a pole and safely transferred her to a cage in their truck. Goodbye Princessa I thought.

Sherma called to tell me how much fun she was having with her friends in Los Angeles and so I casually I told her the Princessa story. (Come to think of it I don’t think Princessa quite had a name yet.) Anyway, she was furious.  I mean furious – kind of like Princessa was when I walked into the bathroom to investigate. Hissing and all.

Sherma hung up on me and unbeknownst to me she called her secret cat network friends.  Oh yes she really has cat people friends who have a kind feline network or something.  Anyway when I woke up the next morning Princessa was at the back door and has remained there ever since.

Okay, maybe Princessa has a good reason not to like me.

 

Steven Pinkert Christmas Family Cruise

Steven Pinkert’s Extended Family Christmas Cruise

This past Christmas through New Years my extended family went on a Caribbean Cruise.  We sailed on Celebrity for a 10 day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale.   It was very nice as almost all of my family was able to attend.

Chuck, Janet, Zach, Pam, Sherma and Steve

Our ports of call included St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica, and St. Maarten.

On the Equinox

We sailed on the Equinox.  It is a new Celebrity ship carrying about 3000 passengers. Of note the breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent.  Cabins were small as the newer Celebrity ships seem to have smaller cabins with less drawer and closet space. Here is a great picture of Sherma with our sons Keith and Ian.

Sherma, Ian and Keith Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Barbados

On Barbados we rented Segways which were really fun as they were fast and the scenery was beautiful. It takes a little time to get comfortable on a Segway but after a lesson on safety you are ready.

Steven Pinkert's Extended Family on Segways

In the photo above, from left to right are Steven Pinkert, Sarah Mancinelli (my niece), Sherma, Janet (my sister), Chuck (Janet’s boyfriend), MIchael Dropkin (my nephew) and my sons Ian and Keith.  The two boys behind on the right are friends. I have other members not pictured as they didn’t do the Segway tour because over Christmas the availability of Segways was a bit limited.

Dominica

Dominica is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic.  Rather it is a small island near Guadeloupe and Martinique.  It is extremely lush and with waterfalls and rich foliage.  We decided to do an extreme “shore excursion” by a company named Extreme Dominica you can check out their website at www.extremedominica.com.

We went canyoning!  This means that you are rappelling descending hundreds of feet on  ropes with harnesses through waterfalls, streams and crystal clear pools – all of cold water of course.  But wet suits and safety equipment are provided and mandatory.  It is not for the faint of heart or those in lousy physical shape. Take a look at the video…


We had a great trip and in addition to all the fun, we spent quality time together.

Steven Pinkert’s Pets – Bear, Thunder and Indy

Steven Pinkert has great pets

I realized that to have a family website and not include my pets is sacrilegious.  Certainly Sherma, my wife feels that way.  I have to admit I have a pretty good relationship with all three of my pets.  Bear is our 13 year old Westie, Thunder is an 8 year old Cornish Rex, and Indy (named after Indiana Jones) is a 28 year old African Gray (parrot).

 

Steven Pinkert's Favorite, Bear Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Bear is my buddy.  Always there, always hungry, always acting like he doesn’t understand what I say unless I offer him something he likes such as food or a car ride or a trip to Home Depot. Bear sleeps in our bed every night and thankfully gets groomed every other week. Bear really likes me but he likes Sherma even more.  When I come into the house he ignores me, but when Sherma walks in he is all over her.  As I mentioned earlier, Bear is a West Highland Terrier.  We actually purchased him from a breeder named Jesus in Barcelona Spain.  He was shipped air freight and arrived perfectly healthy. Jesus is one of the most famous breeders of Westie show dogs though Bear is by no means a show dog as his tail is way too long for a Westie.

 

Steven Pinkert's Cornish Rex Cat, Thunder Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Thunder is sometimes my friend and sometimes a monster. He is very playful which is common in the Cornish Rex breed however out of nowhere without provocation he can turn on you and attack.  We do not let guests pet Thunder unless they first sign a liability release.  (For an excellent discussion of the Cornish Rex click on this link: Wikipedia Cornish Rex Cat.)  The unusual characteristic of the Cornish Rex is that they are a short haired cat so they look weird, don’t shed and are relatively hypoallergenic.  I won’t emphasize how weird he looks – you can see his photo and be the judge.

 

Steven Pinkert's African Gray, Indy Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Indy is our African Gray.  He is extremely smart but won’t speak – only whistles.  Recently he has been spending time in the kitchen and I have been making him wheat pasta – his favorite dish.  We hand raised Indy and he is very friendly – but when he is molting he can bite.  Again we do not let guests touch Indy (Well only Calrie Marsh, my law partner, has mastered it  – Indy really likes Calrie.)  Sherma, my wife lets Indy out of the cage on a perch in the garage when she works out.  It is pretty funny to see Sherma, Bear, Thunder and Indy all in the garage during her morning workouts.  Sherma adores animals which is obvious, I suspect –