Saturday, September 13, 2008

China Doll

A week ago today, pre-blog, my husband, Ian, C and I went on a little adventure with some friends/co-workers. My friend Shali suggested we go to San Gabriel (about 15 miles east of Los Angeles) and get foot massages followed by dumplings, then go shopping for our latest food fixation, Pocky!
This sounds like a fun Saturday, anyway, but there are special elements to each one of these offerings that made her suggestion pure genius when you put it all together.

First, the foot massage. Now, this isn't just any foot massage, and only part of it involves your foot. I know what you're thinking, and, yes, it's both legal and PG-rated. Our crew of Shali, Ian, C, Brian, Justin and Lameese met at Chinese Ancient Foot Massage (they don't have a website, so the link is to the location and some reviews). For a mere $15, they offer a 60 minute massage. You sit (fully clothed) in a large, black, comfy chair while they soak your feet and massage your upper body. This goes on for about half an hour, and then they move on to your feet. The final 10 minutes are on an actual massage table, where you get the full-body treatment (still clothed).

This was all for $15 plus a $5 tip, which I find pretty reasonable. Granted, this isn't Burke Williams day spa -- it's in a strip mall called Sunny Plaza -- but it's also about $100 cheaper. I've seen some places offering 60 minutes for $45, but still.

The people were great, too. Ian and I took turns with our massages while the other one was watching C. She ran around the place, which terrified me because it was supposed to be relatively tranquil. But they were so accommodating and even gave her an apple to munch on, which she happily devoured.

Next, dumplings. We visited the nearby Din Tai Fung dumpling house for lunch. Justin was our resident dumpling expert. He and Lameese had been to China and gone to Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong. For the six of us, plus C, we ordered 50 dumplings! 50! Pork soup dumplings, pork and shrimp dumplings and veggie dumplings, plus some broccoli and spinach for good measure.

It was unbelievable. So good. Even C enjoyed a couple veggie dumplings. (The pork dumplings were too hot for me to risk letting her try.) We were stuffed. And, again, the bill was reasonable, coming out to about $10 each, plus tip.

pork dumplings, above; veggie
and pork dumplings, below.
Photos courtesy of Din Tai Fung.
Already relaxed from our massages and now stuffed full of soup dumplings, we could barely make it out of the restaurant to our cars. We also had to take a rain check on our visit to the Chinese grocery store for the (Japanese-made) Pocky. A disappointment because I had been eager to track down the hilarious Pocky for Men. (Before I forget, Pockys are little cookie sticks dipped in different flavors, mostly chocolate.) Pocky for Men is a bit of a mystery, because none of us is really sure what makes it "for men." Is it because of the bitter chocolate coating as opposed to the more demure strawberry or palatable milk chocolate? I don't have the answer, but it's delicious. And, truthfully, I like feeling a little contrarian eating something tasty that wasn't necessarily meant for me. I eat your Pocky for Men! My daughter eats your Pocky for Men! (Well, technically, she didn't, but why let reality get in the way of a fun metaphor?) I drink your milkshake, Pocky!


What disappoints me is that I don't have photos of the actual outing. I diligently packed the camera, stuffed it into C's diaper bag, knowing this would be the perfect opportunity for picture-taking. But it was one of those times when you're having so much fun being so in the moment of every moment, that you neglect to record it. That's why I'm doing it here. In words.
C got to experience -- right here in her city -- food and culture that might seem so far-flung to others. She looked so at home among the native Chinese massage therapists, and that made me proud. There wasn't a language barrier, there wasn't a cultural barrier, there wasn't even an etiquette barrier (which, let me tell you, we tested). They were just happy to see a happy, energetic child, and she was happy just being adored. Aren't we all?
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