Archive for August, 2012

Rosemary tri-tip by eric.louie
Rosemary tri-tip, a photo by eric.louie on Flickr.

Grilled rosemary tri-tip roast

My first full-time job out of college was being a reporter for The Record in Stockton, Calif., 100 miles into California’s Central Valley from San Francisco where I had grown up. For the first several months I had a general assignment position that included the one Saturday day shift. Besides following up on shootings and other breaking news from overnight, I would also get assigned to at least one of the day’s spring and summer fairs. Once, after having my first night out with a couple co-worksers to one of the more happening spots in town, I had to go to the Oakdale Chocolate Festival, Linden Cherry Festival and some event in Lodi where several wineries had food, barrel making and other special features in over 100-degree weather. The chocolate festival, except for being next to the Hershey’s factory, actually was like any other street fair and didn’t have much of a chocolate emphasis as you’d expect. The cherry festival was at a rural high school, and the wine event was your typical wine-country thing.

No matter what type of event you were at, a common food was the tri-tip sandwich. According to the wikipedia entry when I wrote this, “In the United States this cut was typically used for ground beef or sliced into steaks until the late 1950s, when Otto Schaefer marketed it in Oakland, California. Shortly thereafter, it became a local specialty in Santa Maria, rubbed with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and other seasonings, grilled slow and low over red oak wood, and roasted whole on a rotisserie, smoked,in a pit, baked in an oven, grilled, or braised in a Dutch oven after searing on a grill.” It’s a small triangular muscle near the back legs that does well left somewhat rare in the middle. It was also a fairly inexpensive cut, usually around the $2 per pound range, and I had just gotten a gas grill. These days it runs about $3 per pound untrimmed when on sale, and buck extra trimmed. Roasts weigh a couple pounds.

Here’s a recipe uses a simple salt flavoring with soy sauce that, along with the added smokieness of the rosemary, highlights the beef’s natural flavors. After a quick seasoning, it can be made in 30 minutes start-to-finish, or left on a cool part of the grill up to an hour. Perfect if you’re not sure if or when folks are showing up. It is paired with plain, simmered sweet potatoes and collard greens for contrast.


  • A tri-tip roast
  • Soy sauce
  • Beer
  • Ground black pepper
  • Fresh rosemary



  • Trim the roast as needed. Leaving a “rough” layer of fat on the fatty side is OK, it’ll make it crispier. Rinse.
  • Season the roast with a soy sauce and some beer. You can drink the leftover beer, and then some.
  • Crack some black pepper, to taste.
  • Remove rosemary leaves from the stems and break them up further if desired.
  • Mix together and let marinate. A day is preferable, but at least half an hour is OK.
  • Turn on your grill as hot as possible.
  • Lay meat down, heavy side facing inside where the heat is higher. You should hear a sizzle when it goes down.
  • After five to 10 minutes a crisp seal should have formed. Watch out for burning.
  • Turn it over and do the same to the other side. Adjust flames if needed.
  • After each side has a seal, turn down your fire.
  • From there it can be 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how long you want to wait. You’ll learn what’s an appropriate heat and manage that with the serving time. Keep it covered, and checking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • When the tri-tip is firm, not bending when you hold it in the middle with tongs, it is done. If using a meat thermometor, around 125 F. Outer ends will be medium rare and insides rare, so cook more if desired.
  • Let it sit 10 to 20 minutes so the juices don’t run when cutting.


Sides (items should be in the pot when you start cooking the tri-tip)

  • Start boiling a bit of water, enough to halfway cover the sweet potatoes you plan to put in.
  • Get some sweet potatoes. Peel them if needed, but skin is OK too if washed. Cut into small pieces.
  • Put in the pot once it starts boiling.
  • Get some collard greens and remove from them from the spine. Cut into smaller pieces and put in pot.
  • Ideally everything should be done by when your tri-tip is ready, but if not luckily these don’t overcook.



Getting dental help

Posted: August 9, 2012 in Living
Getting dental help. by eric.louie
Getting dental help., a photo by eric.louie on Flickr.

By Eric Louie
BERKELEY-My dentist’s office called the other day to reschedule next month’s cleaning. It reminded me that I have to find someone else.

Not that there’s anything wrong, my teeth have long been cared for by a family friend whose daughters are around my age and are now taking over the business. I’ve never even had a cavity. I just don’t have insurance.

That’s brings me to the Berkeley Free Clinic on a warm, Wednesday summer evening. The clinic, in addition to the expected sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy testing, also offers services like checking colds, coughs, skin problems, minor wounds and teeth. Dental services include exams, cleanings and fillings. To get them, new clients must be picked in a lottery. Those are held each day over a few days each month when the clinic opens weekdays at 5:30 p.m.

While there is a national focus on health insurance, dental care is also an issue for many. According to a February report from the government titled “Dental Crisis in America-The Need to Expand Access,” more than a third of Americans have no dental coverage. Almost 60 percent of American kids 5 to 17 have cavities, and one in four people over 65 have lost all their teeth, with bad dental health having overall impacts like increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and poor birth. The report, from a U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee, talked about how low-income and communities of color are impacted more, with a disproportionate number of dental services in the suburbs also affecting access.

I lost my work dental insurance after being laid off in November, and decided not to get it considering the $200 to $300 in out-of-pocket payments for the X-rays and cleaning I usually only went for would be cheaper than coverage. Still, having to pay for those is something I’d rather not do while still out of work. At the same time, not having coverage has made me more careful, like actually flossing everyday and brushing instead of passing out on the couch. Regular cleanings are recommended as a preventative measure.

So in the start of afternoon rush-hour traffic, I drove an hour from San Leandro for what would normally take half that, finding parking in the neighborhood just off the Telegraph Avenue shops near UC Berkeley and running up with a couple minutes to spare. Located in the basement of the Trinity United Methodist Church, a beige, obvious house of worship with large towers and arched windows, about 40 people were milling around the entrance. The doors opened and we filed in, simply filling out names and a few questions on a white slip of paper placed in a plastic fish bowl. We then waited, a mix of chairs lining the walls all taken, with some sitting on the floor and others standing. I gave my seat to an older lady.

People came from all walks of life. There was a young, punk rock girl with a shaved head, while another woman was in her light blue nurses uniform. A younger guy with a black doo-rag and white wife-beater showing off his muscled, tattooed arms was sitting. An older, fatherly-looking fellow with an equally impressive belly stood next to him, glasses on and reading one of the clinic’s many pamphlets about services. There was also a few kids, the youngest being a boy looking to be on the verge of his teens. Some made small talk, including one woman who said usually everyone in the lottery is taken.

I checked out the posters, many about HIV/AIDS prevention with others from the clinic’s past having its philosophy “Health Care for People Not Profit.” One catching my eye brining attention to syphilis had a series of what looked like nude figure drawings, the first captioned “Bill fucked Tom,” with others showing a variety of man-on-man sexual positions I never really visualized until then. It ended with a meth binge and being up all night, in more ways than one. Keep it real.

The phones rang constantly at the front desk, with workers switching between answering them and giving directions to those coming in. An immediate question was “Are you homeless?” which gives a priority for the clinic’s other services. That’s a big deal. By 6 p.m., 15 minutes after the schedule opens for the general public on weekdays, they were already full for the night and people were turned away. One of those included a girl who, loud enough for me to hear, said she needed a pregnancy test. She was homeless and got there as soon as she could from San Leandro, also thinking she could just drop in. The staff said she could come back another day, but she said she’d just go buy a drugstore test. I hope that worked out for her.

Shortly after, a last call was made for entries. A couple people shouted questions, including if the drawing was done in the open and if they shake the bowl first. The drawings are done privately, and they do shake it. About 6:20 p.m. the results were announced. Three people were picked, and I was not one. A couple people got upset, something about the process, and were starting to argue. For me, though, I was content getting some free toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss. This had been the second of three lottery days this month, with the first being Monday and the next being the following day. The staff encouraged us to try again, if not this month, the next. I ended up going back the next day, which was not as busy, with about 20 people. I wasn’t one of the two picked, but got some information on other places to check. Some do emergency work only, some are schools offering a discount and some are sliding scale, so I just got to check around. I’ll figure something out.

Photocopies for 4 cents in Las Vegas

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Living
PCM (printing) in Las Vegas by eric.louie
PCM (printing) in Las Vegas, a photo by eric.louie on Flickr.

By Eric Louie

LAS VEGAS-A photocopy store run out of a garage.

That’s where I went Thursday morning to make packets of my resume and clips on my way to the Unity 2012 journalism conference’s job fair. The 4 cents I paid per page was a fraction of what it could have cost me, and I also got to meet Ann Schenker, a grandmother who runs the business with an attention to service.

The background to this story starts the day before heading to Las Vegas, with me trying to handle a number of loose ends including making sure my unemployment payments will continue. While at the East Bay Works One-Stop Center in Hayward, which provides a variety of unemployment and job search services, I made several of the 20-something-page packets for free until staff told me there was a 15-page per day limit. Oops.

So I headed to a FedEx Office, where the cost was 11 cents. I only made a few, hoping to go somewhere else cheaper. However, with a number of other tasks including putting grout sealer on my bathroom tile, making copies was put off until after the late night, nine-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. I figured copy stores are everywhere, and there were. There is a FedEx Office inside the Mandalay Bay casino where the convention is being held, though customers pay a premium 22-cents per page. There are also a number of Office Depot locations in Las Vegas, which at 9 cents is a little cheaper.

But in the phone book was an ad for Printing Copies & More, PCM, with their black and white copies being four cents. I called to get an address, and to ask about conditions such as a minimum order, before getting directions to a peach-colored, one-story, late-1970s house a little east of the airport where I’m staying.

“Don’t worry that it’s a residential neighborhood,” said Schenker, who also asked how long it would take me to get there. “Fifteen minutes,” I said. There was no minimum.

I wasn’t expecting much, fearing that the machines would not be fast enough to quickly make the order, or some other sacrifice for the price. But it ended up working well. The first couple attempts had issues with toner smears that gave the copies a small imperfection. Schenker quickly noted that, firing up another machine for another test before sending the whole order of 20 packets through. While waiting I asked Schenker how they opened in the home and she explained there was a store. Then her husband got sick and needed to be cared for. Then her daughter had a baby. Needing to stay home more, the business moved there. Most of their work is large orders from businesses, but they’ll serve anyone.

The total came to $19 and I gave a $20, figuring I would have paid twice that at a normal FedEx Office, and close to $100 for the one inside the casino. So if you find yourself in Las Vegas needing some photocopies, don’t have much money and want to give your business to some really nice people call PCM 702-312-0922.