Shepherd’s Pie from “Macaroni Panggang Bogor”

As we were concluding our new year holiday in Bogor, we decided to have lunch at a well-known local eatery. Macaroni Panggang or MP for short is famous for its baked cuisine. Previously, we have tried its baked macaroni (from where its name “Macaroni Panggang” came), and lasagna.

The MP occupies the lower floor of a two-story house. On the upper floor, they set up another restaurant specializing in steak and the so-called “Mexican food”. One of the main dish is the Shepherd’s Pie. In short, it’s a pie made from mashed potato and minced meat. They offer this pie in two version: mutton or beef.

A quick check in Wikipedia and Reference revealed a misnomer and a misidentification. One, the name Shepherd’s Pie only applies to the mutton version, while the correct name for the beef version is cottage pie. So there is no beef Shepherd’s Pie. Two, both Cottage and Shepherd’s pie are not Mexican food. They originated around the 1700s in Scotland and Northern England, not long after potatoes were widely accepted.

This is how cottage pie usually looks like:

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The original is between 3/4 to 4/5 meat with a crust of potato on top. This is what was served in MP:

How sliced #shepherdspie from @macaronipanggangbogor looks like.

A photo posted by Stephen Siregar (@stephen_siregar) on Jan 2, 2017 at 1:20am PST

There is a big difference. So let’s discuss about the MP version from a standpoint of a person who never had a proper Cottage or Shepherd’s pie.

The pie was mostly made of potato. Underneath the potato crust was a mixture of minced meat, red bean, corn, diced carrots, and cheese. For us, it was pretty good and satisfying. The pie was made fresh from scratch. It took awhile for the pie to bake, but it arrived fresh and hot on our table. We ordered the beef version. So it’s actually a Cottage pie instead of Shepherd’s pie.

#onionring from @macaronipanggangbogor. #comfortfood #indonesia #bogor #culinary #experience

A photo posted by Stephen Siregar (@stephen_siregar) on Jan 1, 2017 at 11:59pm PST

We had onion rings and coffee with the pie.  The onion ring was just a tad oily. Crispy at first, but the crisp began to fade as the rings were left sitting for a few minutes.

#onionring from @macaronipanggangbogor. #comfortfood #indonesia #bogor #culinary #experience

A photo posted by Stephen Siregar (@stephen_siregar) on Jan 1, 2017 at 11:59pm PST

 

They actually served Illy coffee, but they were accommodating to our request for local coffee. They rushed downstairs to their sister restaurant and ordered two cups of manually brewed black coffee. The cups tasted great! To bad we forgot to ask what coffee was it.

All and all, it was a great dining experience. As for price, I cannot say it’s cheap. Between my wife and I, we spent around IDR 150,000 (roughly USD 11).  I would recommend for you to come and get a taste.

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There Goes Another Year

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Last Sunset of 2016. Bogor, December 31.

If you’re on Facebook, and you habitually post something on your timeline every day, after a few years you will end up with a collection of daily happenings in your life. And Facebook makes sure that you notice that. Every day they picked a selection of events from the past years that happened on that very same date, and remind you about them. They go back up to the very first year you joined Facebook.

This is fun. I actually look forward to getting my daily memories. Facebook usually pick posts with pictures to feature in your memory of the day. It is fun to look back and remember when things happen in the past. The parties, the hangouts, even to the dark, sad moments in your life.

The worst thing about those memories is that you are suddenly aware how far back something had happened in the past. You thought that it took place only a few months ago, and then pop! It appears in your Facebook memories, which means that a year had passed between now and that event in your life. It wasn’t a few months, it was 12 months ago!

As you scroll down, you discover other items in the memories that happened two years, three years, four years – up to 2004. Then it dawned on you that it had been 3 years ago since the last time you hung out with your college buddies. The last New Year’s get together your family had with Uncle Bob before he passed? It was 5 years ago. The first time you took your one year old baby to the park? It was 8 years ago. She is in third grade now.

Facebook remind us how fleeting our lives are. At times, the realization is as jarring as checking your bank account balance before making an important purchase and found there’s only a few dollars left. A decade has passed, and you haven’t even done anything about that promise you made just before your wedding day.

Suddenly it’s already another New Year’s day.

At times I feel like I’ve been had. There are a lot of things I didn’t get to do in the past year, and suddenly it’s over. I wanted to stop time, or at least to make it go slower. Or to let me go back a few days. But I already knew 365 days ago that the year will be over, and still I didn’t do those things.

The best thing we can do once we got the shock from the Facebook memories is to learn the lesson. Yes, time doesn’t wait for no one. So don’t wait for time. Do it now.

A Proper Building for Our Office 

We are on the final stage of redecorating our new office building. If everything goes well, we will be working in the new facility this January. Yay! 

About two years ago we were not sure whether to find a new place. Yes we had been occupying our present location for 18 years. Yes, there were some things that we felt wanting from the place. It used to be a large single story house. There used to be a large affluent family who lived there. The children grew up, and one by one left the house to start their own families . Until there was only the widow mother. The house felt too big for her, and she wanted to live in a smaller residence. So she sold the house to us. 

Out office used to be in the house that my parents built in the 70s. We lived in the upper floor, and the office occupied the ground floor. For sometime it was great. Until the place became too crowded and my parents decided to move us away to the southern part of the city.

6 years later, the local government began building an outer ring road, circling the perimeter of the city. Out house was right in the middle. So we had to move again.

My parents renovated the first house to accommodate both home  and the office. Once again we lived above the office. 10 years later my parents built another house on the land across the street, and the old house once again became a full office, albeit only for a year. We moved the office to its present location. And for 18 years we stayed there while the business flourished. 

We felt we need to have a proper office. Not a residential building, but a proper office building. But there was no hurry, and we oscillated between the ideas of staying there or getting the new building. 

We finally made the decision to move when the governor issued a decree banning residential houses from being used commercially. The government refused to renew our business license until we would move to a commercial area. 

We shopped around for a new place but the prices were prohibitive. It was either affordable but too small for our company, or big enough but too expensive for us. 
There was this 6-storey, beautiful office buildings near our old place. I once went pass it and thought how nice it would be to work there. But it wasn’t for sale. And even if it was, we didn’t have the money.

As fate would have it, just at the time we were able to raise the money, the place went on sale! What a miracle! We contacted the owner, negotiated a deal, and once the legalities were done, we now own the building.

So there it was. After.40.years in the business, we finally have a proper office. A long, winding road, that got us where we are now.

I don’t know what to say. Life doesn’t go as you expect. Just be patient and enjoy the ride. 

Drama of the Delayed Flight

I have been absent from blog writing for a long time. I kept delaying from writing a post because I felt that I didn’t have anything to say and I had lost the will to write. I happened to read some notes that I wrote on Facebook and realized that writing isn’t about making a bestseller novel. It’s about pouring your heart into your piece. So to jump start a return to blogging, here’s a piece that I truly enjoyed writing.

Originally a Facebook Notes post dated October 3, 2009. 

After a 4-hour delay, I was finally strapped in my seat with 135 other passenger of the flight from Medan to Jakarta. It was already past 11 PM when the pilot revved the engines of the plane and brought it airborne into the night sky.

It was the worst – and the most dramatic – delay I’ve ever experienced. My wife had warned me of the disadvantage of taking the last flight out. “It will be delayed,” she said. But being the positive, happy go lucky person, I somehow believed that the airline had learned its lesson and would do its best to avoid delays. Boy, I don’t think I’ve ever been more wrong in my life before.

I received the text from my staff at the office informing of the ‘change of flight schedule’, from 7 PM to 9.40 PM. I was incensed. “They cannot do this! They must take responsibility! I have the right of having the airline arranged a better flight for me!” thus my ranting went on inside my head. Yes, the regulations require an airline to transfer a passenger to a better flight upon request, should a more than 90 minute delay is inevitable. But since it was a ‘change of schedule’, technically it was not a delay, and the airline managed to weasel itself out of its accountability through that loophole. Only a 25% refund was provided, and I had to pay full fare if I wanted to change to another airline.

I had no choice but to grumblingly accept to take the flight.

I arrived at the airport a few minutes before 6 PM. Although the check-in counter for ‘changed flight’ would not be open until 7 PM, the staff kindly led me to an open counter of a different flight to check in. Satisfied with the boarding pass in my hand, I headed to the executive lounge.

About 2,5 hours later, I was bored beyond relief. I hoped that I could browse on my HSDPA modem, enjoyed a free buffet, and relaxed, all the privileged of the executive lounge. I somehow had too much fried rice-fettuccine and pastries that within half an hour I was full. My internet connection was rottenly slow. With the PA system endlessly calling passengers to board, it was difficult to have a decent and relaxing rest.

At 9 PM, I left the executive lounge to join the other passengers in the waiting hall. I entertained myself on my smart phone, commenting on my friends’ posts on Facebook. At 9.20 PM, the appointed time of boarding, there was no call. At 9.40 PM, the departure time, still no call. I walked up to the gate and found a group of ground staff who were busy teasing one another. I asked something in the line of, “For heaven’s sake, please tell me when do we depart from this wretched place!”

The young woman turned to her friend, mumbled something, and turned to me with an uneasy demeanor. “I don’ t know how to tell you this, but we won’t be boarding until 10.45 PM, at the earliest.”

That would translate to 90 more minute of more delay. There was an unmistakable sinking feeling inside me, very close to despair.

“I hope you can understand,” she quickly added.

What else could I do but to muster a herculean effort of an understanding?

As I sat down, another passenger, a big, dark, bald and unshaved man replaced me at the counter. Unlike me, he was not in an understanding mood. He voiced his displeasure. He raised his tone. He ranted mercilessly to the helpless desk staff. A crowd began to gather around the scene. The man still went on and on, slashing at the staff’s lame attempts at making reasonable excuses. He kept going at it for about 15 minutes before he went back to his seat with an unsatisfied air.

I quickly updated my Facebook status.

On the background I could catch the man’s loud voice. I thought he was continuing his angry outburst. I looked over my shoulder and I saw him talking into his mobile phone. Then he turned to other travelers, telling them that they should trash the airline’s office to attract the attention of TV news crew, so everybody would know what the airline had done to its passengers.

What an angry, big, dark, bald man.

10.15 PM. A Boeing 737 taxied into the tarmac. It was our aircraft. I quickly swallowed the snack I got from the airline, picked up my heavy backpack, and sat at the front row, near the gate. After a few minutes, I left my seat and stood in front of the gate, determined to be the first to board the plane. Other passengers quickly formed a line behind me.

About 15 minutes later, the gate was opened, and I picked up my steps toward the plane. As I entered the door, I saw a young flight attendant standing, squeezing her eyelids several times to stay awake. I promptly gave her the nicest smile I could came up with under the circumstances. She smiled back at me and greeted me warmly.

After stowing my backpack securely in the overhead bin, I took my seat and looked around at the rest of the cabin crew. I saw pretty young faces, in uniforms designed to flaunt their beautiful forms. They swiftly went about their tasks of assisting passengers into their assigned seats and put away their cabin baggage. They did their best to maintain a professional posture despite of exhaustion.

I could not help thinking, “How can anybody be angry at them? They are doing the best they can at their job, and what happened is beyond their immediate influence.”

One hour into the flight, and after a box of snack and a cup of mineral water, everybody was content. Even the big, dark, bald man seemed to have forgotten about his anger, and talked to the stewardesses about (presumably) the airline merchandise they were selling.

How can anyone stay angry when seeing this excellent crew?

I honestly disliked the airline for failing to keep its promised schedule. But I must admit that they have a highly professional crew.

And here we come to the moral of this story.

Sometimes, things (or s**t, as some people say) just happened. There is nothing you can do about it. There is no point of worrying about it. You cannot keep it from happening, and you cannot stop it from completing itself. When s**t happens, focus on the task at hand. Nobody can stay angry at you when you do that.

And making sure that you look gorgeous while you are focusing on your tasks will considerably increase your chance of being successful in appeasing people’s anger.

Last Thought of The Year

In New Year’s Eve, we customarily go to Church for the year end service. Not this year. I am down with cold, and I could not bear the thought of having to fight new year’s eve traffic. So we stayed in our apartment and rested the night away.

We just moved in here, and for some reason we still have no TV. So I made myself a mixture of tea and herbal medicine, ate some bread, and sat on my beloved Poang chair. While I was listening to the Christmas music (yes, because that’s the only music we have in our still spartan apartment) played on my I pad, I thought about what we have experienced throughout the year. 

There were hits and misses, good times and bad times, and everything else in between. I browsed through my photo albums on Facebook, and I saw a lot of reasons to be thankful. Yes there were unpleasant things that happened, but there were also plenty of good things that happen to us.

For all the good things, I am grateful. For all not so good things, I am thankful. 

For the new year, I resolved to complain less. Life is full of so many good things, and I would be a waste to let myself be consumed with hate, irritation, and disappointment. I just want to enjoy each day at a time, taking good care of myself, drink the wine, and have the desser. 

I learned a lot from Stan Lee, the comic genius behind many of Marvel Comics characters. He’s 93, but he shows no signs of slowing down. He keeps churning out ideas after ideas, at the age where so many people would stop being productive. Throughout his career, he experienced successes, failures, one after another. When one enterprise he started went bankrupt, he simply started another one. No stopping. His life story is riddled with phrases like “Yes I can,” or “Why not?” or “It’s fun!”

In an interview, he said “Thinking up stories is easy. Thinking up the characters is easy. It’s finding a way to make it something that people have never seen before — that’s what’s difficult. It’s also what’s the most fun.” 

And so he keeps going.

That it would be difficult for me, an introvert, to see the positive, is something I realized early. But there’s nothing to lose. So, why not? I can do it, and it’s gonna be fun!

Matcha!

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Matcha Ice Cream at Asuka Japanese Restaurant

Once a friend of mine uploaded a curious picture to her Facebook timeline. It was green with folds and creases not unlike a brain. At first I thought my friend went to an intergalactic exotic eating place and was served an alien brain in a glass cup. Or maybe an alien cow brain. A closer inspection brought me to realize that it was a cup of matcha, or green tea, ice cream.

I never thought green tea could become an ice cream flavor. I already had some objections against unusual flavors such as black bean, or even durian. Green tea, as my reasoning went, was a drink that should be enjoyed in a liquid state, preferably hot. It was not supposed to be mixed with cream and milk and be frozen. No sir, that is just as strange as eating rice with fresh banana (yes I know some cultures find this to be appealing).

But I was wrong. Green tea, aside from being a drink, can be a flavor just like coffee. People do add coffee to food. Coffee ice cream, coffee biscuits, coffee bread, coffee cake, and the list goes on. So what is so strange about green tea in stuff other than, well, tea?

My first experience with matcha is very favorable. I like it! The green tea lends bitter taste to balance the sugar, and enhances the creaminess of the ice cream. I began to ask for matchas whenever I visited a Japanese restaurant.

The lesson here is not to limit the number of possibilities. With the right combination, you can come up with a great tasting ice cream, or highly effective team.

The Broken Award Trophy

The Friday night award dinner was over. It was time for dancing and fun. We wore Batik, long sleeved dress shirts in Batik patterns which in Indonesia enjoys the same status as a suit. We found it awkward to hit the floor in our Batik, so we decided to go to the mezzanine.

A lot of people were out there as well, to get away from the loud music and the dark room. Some friends came up to us to congratulate us for the Gold Cup award we received this year. In return we also congratulated other award winners that we met.

As we were chatting happily, our CEO Peter Handal emerged from one of the ballroom doors. Jolly and amiable as usual, he was soon surrounded by people who wanted to have their pictures taken with him. He was retiring from his position in Dale Carnegie. For people who came from far ends of the globe like us, this would be our last chance for a photo op with him.

I was holding the box containing the heavy crystal award in my hands. We were just getting ourselves ready for a picture with Peter. Suddenly I felt the box became a lot lighter. There was a loud crash and tinkling. When the surprise was over, all that remained of the trophy was just scattered crystal shards of various sizes.

It took me a few seconds to finally grasp what happened. I broke the award! That was the moment when I felt to be most stupid. How could I be so careless with something so valuable? The appreciation of one year’s hard work from our team, gone!

I was apologizing profusely, I said, “I’m very sorry,” over and over again. With his hand on my shoulder Peter said, “It’s not your fault, Stephen.” And then he lifted his face to everyone and said, “It was my fault. I tapped him on the shoulder and he reacted. I’ll have it replaced. I’m sorry.”

In the middle of the commotion, Dave Wright approached us. He is the President of Dale Carnegie of Austin, and his team won a Silver Cup award tht night. He stretched his neck out to survey the damage, and asked, “What’s that? You broke your award alredy? Is that a Gold or Silver? A Gold? You can use our Silver for your photo. They’re similar, right?” He graciously handed the crystal trophy to us, and the photo took place after all.

On Monday night, we were retiring to our room at the airport transit hotel in Incheon. I habitually took my phone and opened my email. I found one message from Peter. He said that he had arranged for a replacement trophy to be mailed to us, and that I should not let that incident affect me. It was his fault that he tapped me on my shoulder and startled me to drop the award. Before that, he shared, he dropped his watch on the bathroom floor and broke it. “You can say that this is Peter’s curse.”

I imagined that he had a big grin and a big twinkle in his eyes as he wrote that.

I spent a lot of time in our 20 hour trip from Atlanta to Seoul to revisit the incident. I was angry at myself for being such a bungling idiot. It was a simple logic to hold the box at a slanted angle to keep the award from toppling out. Somehow I stupidly held it upright.

After I was done criticizing myself, I began to think about the people that offered their help. About Peter who took the blame and offered to replace the award, even though I was so sure it was wholly my fault. About Dave who offered to loan his team’s award so we could somehow took a group picture with Peter. I have never seen so much kindness in the face of a mistake in my life.

I wrote back to Peter. “If there was a purpose behind this incident, it is so that we could see kindness from others. From you, from Dave. And if anyone ask me what I remember best about you, I would tell them about this incident to illustrate the kind, warm and friendly person you are.”

Instead of a misfortune, this has become a beautiful parting gift from Peter to me. I will never forget that day.

Thank you Peter for being a great leader for us. Have a wonderful journey ahead.