J Herbin French Ink

The fountain pens I bought in January during the great fountain pen buying binge of 2016 are now all starting to run out of ink with the cartridge that they came with.

I have bought various converters for them now so that I can use them with  various inks that are available. I started with the basic black and blue: French produced Parker Quink black, and German made Faber Castell royalblau. As I started to look at ink, it turns out there’s a whole world of ink out there. Sort of like beers, there’s all of these microbreweries that make a lot of different inks, varieties, and for different purposes. Some are quick drying, some will last hundreds of years, some are fade resistant, some are water resistant, some are special editions, commemorative editions, limited editions, small batches, and some even come with gold flakes.

I decided to give J. Herbin a try. They have been making ink since 1670, including inks for Louis XIV and Victor Hugo.  What’s good enough for the Sun King and author of Les Mis is good enough for me. They also make the ink with gold flakes. I went with the more standard ink line modestly named La Perle des Encres aka the pearl of inks. Of the 30 rather inventively named colors, I decided to give Vert reseda (green reseda) and Café des îles (island coffee) a try.

I cleaned out my Lamy Safari, installed the ink converter, and likewise Pilot Metropolitan with quite a bit of a mess at first.  Then onto the new inks! Vert reseda is actually pretty close to a light teal that is more green than blue, and the island coffee is a light pleasant brown. Definitely give the writing on the page a pop. Not sure which brand and color I will try next, but just reading about some of them is already pretty entertaining.

French ink


Back to mechanical pencils too

pencilsAfter getting back into fountain pens after a twenty some odd years of not having used one since elementary school, I realized I also haven’t used mechanical pencils in a while since moving to the US in grade school. In Shanghai, most elementary school kids have mechanical pencils. With 1st and 2nd graders using 0.9mm and then gradually going to 0.7mm and then 0.5mm in the upper elementary grades. In the US, it was all about the Ticonderoga #2 wooden pencil. In fact, I have never seen an American style hand cranked wooden pencil sharpener until I started grade school here.

Anyway, I ended up choosing 4 different mechanical pencils after reading a few online articles. Rotring 600 ($24), Rotring 800 retractable ($40), Pentel Graph Gear 1000 ($11), and Staedtler 925 25-05 ($11). All of them in 0.5mm, and Amazon was pretty quick with the shipping and the Rotrings well below MSRP.

I started with the Rotring 600, and really enjoyed writing with it.  It is super solid, great weight, heft, balance, and just well constructed. However, the lead sleeve is pointy and I didn’t think it would survive in my bag, so I wanted to see what else was out there. Rotring makes a retractable version of the 600, the 800. The 800 adds some gold accents that took me some getting used to. Sort of like people who gold plate their Lexus emblems. But after a couple of days with it, I got used to it, and now think the tone of the accents aren’t too shiny and fits the black of the pencil rather well. The 800 is ever so slightly chubbier than the 600, and the retraction mechanism added a little bit of wobble. I opened the pencil and added a piece of tape to the inside barrel and the wobble went away. But really, shouldn’t have to MacGyver a pencil this fancy with gold accents. The 800 trades portability for added mechanical complexity and a slightly less overall solid feel than the 600.

Rotring 800 wobble fix

Pentel Graph Gear 1000 is much lighter than either Rotrings, and the retraction mechanism is activated by the clip. Pressing on the clip releasing the notch on the barrel and it moves up the main body of the pencil. It is part metal, part plastic. It is a great mechanical pencil, but because it is not as solid as the Rotrings, it writes just as well, but doesn’t feel as substantial.

Both the Pentel and the 600 have rings that you can select to remind yourself what kind of lead you have in the pencil for people with real professional use of the pencils as opposed to everyday office note taking.

The Staedtler 925 25-05 is just a nice, no frills, no nonsense, comfortable, capable mechanical pencil. The Toyota Corolla of mechanical pencils really.

When I do feel like using a pencil, the 800 will go in my bag with the Pentel as the back up. The 600 will be in the office pen cup, and the Staedtler will probably around the house as needed.

While doing research on these pencils, found out that Sharp the Japanese electronics manufacturer started out with mechanical pencils called the Ever Sharp, hence the company name Sharp.

Pretty good pork chops

Pork theme continues, this time tried to do a good old skool pork chop. I got 2 of them with bone in.

  1. Brine it with some salt for about an hour.
  2. Season it with cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  3. In a preheated cast iron skillet, brown both sides.  Took around 5 minutes.
  4. Put it in 400 degree oven to roast for ~6 minutes to cook the meat through.
  5. Take it out of the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes covered under aluminum foil.
  6. Enjoy!

pork chop

How to Tonkatsu Perfectly

After many tries, finally found a Tonkatsu (aka Japanese pork Wiener Schnitzel) that works for me.  The key is adding a table spoon of oil to the egg wash, and frying it twice at different temperatures.

  1. Pork tenderloin, cut 1 1/4 inch thick pieces. Most recipes call for pork chops, but using tenderloin here since I had some on hand.
  2. Use back of kitchen knife or tenderizer and flatten out pork to size of your hand.  Around 4X4in ish size and ~1/4 in thick depending on how big the original tenderloin is and how thick you cut the pieces.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. Lightly dredge it in plenty of flour, make sure it is all covered, pat out an excess.
  5. Beaten eggs with 1 tea spoon of oil added to make egg wash.  Coat the pork pieces in it. 1 Egg will coat ~5 pieces.
  6. Panko it gently, don’t press into it.  Make sure it is covered.
  7. Fry for 3 minutes in 300 degree oil to cook the meat.
  8. Take it out and let it rest for a couple of minutes.
  9. Turn up the temperature, fry again in 355 degrees about a minute or until golden brown. The 2nd frying makes it really crispy.
  10. Enjoy!

I used the Waring DF55 home fryer with corn oil for this recipe.  I do have some refined olive oil that I will try next time to see if it makes a difference in taste since 355 is well below smoking point for both oils.

Tonkatsu 2nd fry

Twice fried on top of the cooling rack, 1st time fried bottom.

Tonkatsu finish

Finally got to eat.