Sunday, December 30, 2012

An overnight bus later....

My isle buddy
The bus was suprisingly painless.  After some initial frustration (me) of not being able to find a seat next to eachother, Paul and I settled into two seats front to back to eacth other in the back of the bus.  This actually worked out well, but let me first describe the bus layout.  Picture summercamp with bunk beds but on a bus.  There were three rows across and two layers; a top and bottom.  Everyone had their own kind of compartment, feet covered, and then you could lay your seat all the way almost flat- over the person behind you's covered feet compartment.  We were in the back on the bottom which meant easy bathroom (ew) access and we still had window seats.  As with all buses in less developed parts of the world, they aren't filled until you can't possibly squish in one more soul.  We stopped and picked up god knows who, who all lined the floor in between seats.  India style. 

I fell asleep pretty early, and remember waking up at some point in the night and all the isle sleepers were gone.  Another point in the night some guy unloaded what must have been 30 boxes from out of nowhere and pushed them individually down the isle.  Scratch, scratch, scratch for what seemed like several hours.  Back to sleep and we were at our first and only stop at 7:30 am.  And just a short 2 hours later we arrived in grey Hue. 

Hue is a cute little town built around and old Cirtadel which is built around another Citadel; the purple forbidden city.  We spent the first part of the day poking around the Citadels, saw and elephant inside, and then it started raining.  We spent the better part of the second half of the day exploring the local cuisine and then hit up a salon for pedicure (me) and a foot massage (Paul). 
Cutest little baby

Next day was the best day; motobike day!  We hired two motorbikes, complete with drivers (safety first), and head out on a beautifully sunny morning for Hoi An.  This was the first sunny and hot day we experienced and it was just perfect to spend it on the back of a bike!  We stopped by a fishing village, drove through thẻ countryside, stopped for a seafood lunch, drove up a mountain, stopped in the clouds at an old US military bunker, drove down the mountain, stopped at China Beach in DaNang (which is gorgeous!), and finally pulled into Hoi An a mere 4 hours later.  There's just something about being out in the open that makes you feel like you're expereiencing the country that much more than just from a bus window.  And the countryside was absolutely gorgeous.  Green palm trees in front of green mountains, with cows, chickens, ducks, dogs and water buffalo in the mix.  We zoomed past trucks and buses, pased motorbikes carying dead chickens and pigs, and totally loved every rock taken in the eye.  Next time bring sunglasses. 

Hoi An!

Japanese Bridge

New 'Raybans' on the river

As much fun as that was, we were in for such a treat in Hoi An.  It's the 'intellectual, architechtural, and spirittual' centre of Vietnam according to Lonely Planet, and I couldnt agree more.  It's a beautiful old city, still in tact, filled with temples, restaurants, shops, tailors (overwhelmingly so), and tourists.  And it's all based around this lovely river covered in lanters and awesome little junk boats!  Our driver dropped us off at a fine little hotel with pool; had we known it would be so much warmer just 150km south, we would have brought our bathing suits!  We immediatley went to get custom made clothes (says the kid who lives in Hong Kong); Paul a tan sport jacket and me jeans, and then explored the quaint old town.  Shopping, shopping and mỏe shopping!  Love our new clothes and love Hoi An.  If we had to do this trip all over again, I would have flown into Hoi An (or somewhere nearby) rented a bike or motorbike to hit the beach (5km away) everyday, and shop and eat every night.  Then spend a few dáy in DaNang, back to Hoi An and out.  Just beautiful!  And the sun đin't hurt none either!

Sunny when we left Hoi An

Rainy and miserable post tunnel back on the Hue side
1:30 the next day and we bussed it back to Hue where ít has been violently raining and winding ever since.  Today we spent blogging, eating, and wiating for another 11 hour (13+) overnight bus back to Hanoi.  I'm so happy we got to see so much of the country ín such a small time, and even mỏe happy that Paul is totally loving it too!

Had THE best seafood noodles this am for break.  And a donus filled with a meatball.  ha <3 Vietnam

Hanoi or bust!

PS I am rocking the most fantastic outfit today.   The weather has dropped 5 degrees C since AM so instead of changing I just add layers.  Spandex, shorts, flops.  Long sleeve, t-shirt, sweater, vest.  Gonna break out the scarf soon.

I have since added Paul's argyle socks and yellow balerina flats.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hi, from Hanoi!

Merry belated Christmas from Vietnam!  Paul and I are having an amazing time on our tour through the northern half of  Vietnam.  Here we are 8 days in and I feel like we've been traveling for a month; in a good way!

A word of note.  If you see this ứa or this ô; it's because I'm typing on our hotel computer which thinks I'm typing in Vietnamese.  Try to figure it out or move on as ít is incredibly frustrating to fix :) 

Ho Chi Min Mausoleum
We flew into Hanoi last Sunday night, got picked up  ("Paul McPhate" ha) and driven to our hotel.  The hotel was really nice, but not really in the backpacky area which would have been nice.  We had some chick noodle soup (pho ga) and called it a night.  Day 1 full was full on Hanoi.  I think we walked most of Hanoi before dark.  We hit the lake after a rich coffee and street bahn mí (beef/egg/chicken sandwiches that are to die for.  Topped with fresh coriander and veg, they're light, packed with flavor, and on the most delicious French baguettes) for some hot tea with a view.  Brr Hanoi is cold!!  Sure, not NJ cold, but definitely colder than HK.
Paul's first authentic Bahn Mi
Outside the lake

Then we saw the Old Quarter (backpacker area where we'll spend NYE), wandered to the Citadel, Paul got a shave, had amazing beef n veg noodles with ultra cheap (~25 cent) beers, then hit the Ho Chi Min Mausoleum which is conveniently closed on Mondays.  Typical.  Then back to the hotel to unwind and out again for an amazing dinner and drinks in the old quarter.  And then we were spent.

Pagoda at HCM memorial
What really blows my mind is how totally different this is from Ho Chi Min City.  HCMC is run down, has its charm, but is very obviously poor.  Up in Hanoi everything is clean, well kept, and we even saw Gucci and Cartier.  Weird!  This is totally not how I pictured it.  I honestly believe the cooler the climate, the more productive the society.  You don't have to work so hard when there's bananas and a beach!
Street side shave

Lake park

Spring rolls, duck, snakehead fish and beers in the Old Quarter

We lucked out on our first day.  Despite the chilly (probably low 60s ha) breeze, it was mostly sunny and luckily didn't rain.  Day 2 it was greyer but not rainy.  We got up at 7 for a four hour van ride up to Halong Bay for a Christmas cruise.  We were on board a lovely boat, the Papaya Cruise, with 8 others from around the globe; a hippie dude from Santa Barbara with his Taiwanese wife, a young French couple, a couple from Vietnam, an English dude who lives in France and works in Germany, and a guy who spoke no English so who knows.  (Halong Bay photos are all on the camera, not iphone. Coming soon)

We immediately had a wonderful lunch on board complete with fish, spring rolls, meat skewers, soup, noodles, rice, and greens.  It was awesome and a good way to get to meet our fellow cruisers.  Then we got to check out our cute little cabin.  For what we paid it was really amazing and really surprising.  And off we went through thẻ crazy undulating jutting cliffs in the bay.  On a sunny day the pictures would have really popped, but unfortunately it's winter and the sun rarely shows its face.  We stopped and went on a walking tour through a giant cave (touristy and full of you guessed, tourists), kayaked around a fishing village and the bay for a bit, then climbed to the top of a pagoda on a new island for sunset.  It was touristy (ie you were never off alone doing anything) but it wasn't cheesy; everything was really fun and just the right amount of time.  Then back on board for a similar dinner to our lunch, and free time to which our tour guide (Mit #1) suggested we kareoke.  Ummm we all passed.  Then they park in the middle of the bay and we could sit out on the deck in the dark enjoying the solitude (even though there were 6 or so other boats in our vicinity).

Rest stop on the way to Halong Bay
Early am wake up (theme of this trip) and we have a quick breakfast.  I LOVE Vietnam coffee; so rich and strong yet doesn't seem to have too much caffeine.  It's typically served with condensed milk, but I prefer it with whole.  Yum.  Then we sat outside and watched as we cruised through spectacular mountains!  Beautiful!

Then another van back to Hanoi where we were immediately ushered to the bus station for an overnight bus to Hue.  More on that later....

Thursday, December 20, 2012


And I'm still here....still a few hours til 21/12/12 in Mayan land though....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One More Sleep

Til vacation!  Well not vacation so much as not working.  This week has been filled with friends and holiday catch up.  Monday we joined Kina for a wine tasting at Linguini Fini.  Ah that place is amazing!!  The food is always awesome, Wahid is the man, and the wines were all spectacular.  Check HOFWs blog for a more in depth look.

Tuesday work was nuts and then I ran out to the Hive in Wan Chai to go to my new friend, Allison's first General Assembly class.  General Assembly is a start up from NYC (where she was working after leaving Goldman!) that in short teaches entrepreneurship classes.  These classes are for both aspiring entrepreneurs and established executives to learn how to think like an entrepreneur.  Totally awesome!

So Allison pitched GA to open up their Hong Kong branch and now she' doing it!  The class I attended was packed and sooooo interesting.  We watched a video from Alexis Ohanian who started and and one other, and now has his hands in over 50 startups.  And he's in his early 30s.  Wow.  His video seminar was so inspiring.  It was the first video Allison saw at GA and was what inspired her to join the GA team.  My other new friend Julia was there with her boyfriend....wait, finance!  So good to see them and congratulate them on a Taiwan proposal!

Wednesday Paul and I met Kina, Will and Sarah, Allison and her boyfriend Michael, for a Christmas dinner at the Globe.  The Globe, other than being my favorite bar, also has wonderful English food. (Oxymoron?)  All the men folk enjoyed meat pies (Paul had kidney- delish!) and we all enjoyed the beer selection.  yey American craft beers. 

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.....

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Partyyyy!

Last I left you we were sipping eggnog, well here we are again Sunday night and Paul's still sipping eggnog.  Thursday we had the HOFWs Christmas party at Factory 99 which was super fun.  30 or so of HOFWs VIPs gathered for wine samples (Chateauneuf du Pape was the best), turkey, truffle pasta, and fun.  But in not so typical HOFWs fashion, we called it a night at 10.  Good work~
Factory 99 pre guest arrival- me opening wine, Greg, and John (owner 99)

Friday Paul and I hit up AWSEC (wine school) for an evening of wine tasting.  The wines were cool, met the ex-sommelier of a bar I used to frequent in Arlington, saw a bunch of friends from class, and got some words of wisdom on proceeding with WSET from the school's founded.  Asa.

Saturday and I had off!!!!!!  Paul had a work meeting (Cantonese only) from 9-12 while I had a call with the GM of a resort in Bali!!  So excited about Komune, and really looking forward to visiting in February!  Then we were off a for a short hike.  Well turns out the hike we wanted to do was not so short.  4 hours in and we still weren't there.  Stairs and stairs and to top it off I'm wearing flip flops, jeans, and it's 75 degrees out.  Not that I'm complaining about 75 in December....

Heading up to Mount Barker from Quarry Bay
We finally made it out of there, sweat soaked and exhausted, hauled it to Causeway Bay to pick up a gift and home to get ready for a pizza dinner at Helen and Dave's.  Ahhh and how much fun!!  We caught up with Helen and Dave, played with (held) 4 month old baby Daria!, caught up with Kina, Andrew, and Bethanny, and met some new friends.  And the pizza was awesome too :)

Sos cute
Today I had to work at the Island East Market.  boooo.  But at least it was with Julia and there was salad, mulled wine, and brownies :)  Twas a pretty long boring day, until....

Punk bank at Island East Market.  ha kid approved
I got the BEST text message today from my new friend Julia (no co-worker.  I should call her NZ Julia).  I had given her some recommendations of things to do in Taiwan, one of which was the hotel we stayed at in Wulai, the hotspring town.  Well, turns out she and her boyfriend loved it...and he proposed!!!! So so so exciting!  They've been dating 7 years, lived in 3 countries, and now just got engaged!!

I'm excited to celebrate with them!  But first it's a Linguni Fini Italian Odyssey wine tasting with Kina tomorrow night.  Can't wait!!  And then saying goodbye to our bestie, Steve :(  Steve's been a friend since he first moved here, he hooked us up with an awesome apartment, and has been a best friend and neighbor ever since. So sad to see him leaving, but I have a sneaking suspicion he'll be back.  I give him 6 months.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Earl- we're here to stay!  You always have a place to stay in HK!

Feeling inspired by the holidays, Paul suggested we spend our Wednesday night in making eggnog, with hopefully a positive result we could bring to our friend Helen and Dave's on Saturday for their Christmas party.  We decided to start small.  Often times (gnocchi disaster night) we make too much.  And then we (Paul) end up eating it for weeks.  Seriously weeks.

Paul's recipe:

4 1/2 egg yolks (we learned we are both pretty fantastic at separating yolks)
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark rhum
whiskey to taste

This made enough to fill a medium tupperware, of which I anticipate Paul will finish off tonight.  I decided to make a slightly less indulgent version.

Lauren's recipe for one:

1/2 egg yolk
2 tablespoons 5% cream (super healthy!)
1/2 cup skim milk
couple drops stevia
splash dark rhum
splash whiskey

Both are delicious.  And one won't totally kill my 'intense' 30 minutes of iron pumping yesterday.  Let's talk about that.  As I mentioned on Facebook, I have belonged to quite a few gyms in my day; including 3 in Asia.  Well never have I ever been so gawked at.  I swear everything I moved machine all eyes were on me.  I suppose I usually have an ipod on and don't notice, but geeze.  AND there was only one other girl in the weight room (others on treadmills/cardio) AND I was the only guillo (whitey).    Looking forward to the new location near my office to open up.

What else what else....

OH YES, last week we had the most fun wine dinner at Ma Maison, a private kitchen.  I briefly introduced the wines before each course for 14 HOFWs fans.  The food was all spectacular, the wines were fantastic, and it made me a little more confident (or was that the wine) in my knowledge and ability to convey it.  Anyone have any pointers on speaking in public?  This is definitely a place I need to focus some attention.

Friday evening Paul and I attended the Golden Gate Wines Christmas party.  It was super fun and the girl FiFi there was ultra informative about several things.  a) where to get a great wedding dress made in HK b) don't waste your money on the AWSEC diploma level WSET course (I'm better off taking it in Singapore and flying to the tests) and c) introduced me to this fantastic company.  Did I mention there was homemade hummus?

Saturday and I had to work for a bit, then Paul and I got the tackiest shirts we could find (his gold chain print, mine pink and sparkly) to prepare for Alicia's Christmas party. Unfortunately, Alicia's toilet flooded, leaving us party goers stranded in Central :)  A few drinks in Soho and these kids turned in.

Sunday was fantastic.  Beautiful blue skies and warm!!  We went through the Island East Market at our doorstep running into friends, sipping mulled wine, and shopping, then hoofed it over to TST to meet Kameron and her boyfriend Charles for dessert.  Amazing place, and it was soo good to catch up with Kammy after so many months!  And her boyfriend is cool to boot.

Then boated to Central for a wine tasting (read all about it on HOFWs blog) at California Vintage.  Monday was another day filled with work, and a night filled with work, but at least there was wine :)  Tuesday was less than exciting and now tis eggnog/christmas card writing night. One cup is enough for this kid.  4 cards down...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


It's been another crazy whirlwind week with no pauses!  Sunday I worked at the HK Country Club with Sean.  Although beautiful, it was boring and I just wished that I was at home doing anything other than selling foie gras. 

Tuesday we had an event at the Peninsula hotel.  There was a luncheon for 120 women, and in the reception a little market.  We of course had a booth, but there was also jewelry and some other interesting stuff too.  We also provided welcome drinks.  In exchange one person got to go to the!  At first this was exciting, but then after sitting down with a bunch of women who didn't want to talk to me, I began to have my doubts.  And then there was belly dancing during the first course.  And then a full on fashion show.  And of course intermittent lucky draws.  And then each vendor had to raffle off a gift.  My god this 'lunch' went on for 4 loooooong hours.  Ohhh and the women!  I'll include some pictures so you can see what I mean....

Anyway, Julia and I FINALLY got out of there (after she had to sit in the lobby and NOT get lunch, poor Julia) and ran over to Admiralty for the Great Wines of Italy tasting.  After the afternoon we had, we jumped right in and drank as much of the fantastic vinos as possible.  Ohhhh there were Barolos, Barberas, Brunellos, Super Tuscans, Chiantis, and of course the whites as well!  Despite the fact I had a big lunch, not having dinner proved to be more influential over my well being.  We walked out of there quite tipsy at 830, and I went home and directly to bed!

Yesterday, despite milld hangover, Paul and I had committed to a wine tasting in Central.  The theme was Warming Winter reds, all of which were quite lovely.  I like the Bordeaux blend from Man O'War from Waiheke, New Zealand, and Paul prefered a smoky Merlot from Meerlust Estate in South Africa.  Was a nice tasting complete with mulled wine and mincemeat pies at the end!  The English know their pies!

Tonight is our second wine dinner; the first at a private kitchen.  This is actually my first private kitchen experience which is hard to believe considering I've been in HK 1.5 years now!  Private kitchens are everywhere!! I will be announcing our Prosecco with the apps, Rose with the oysters (ohhh yes), and Moscato with French pastries for dessert.  Report to come!

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Good news from America; Chetta and Ryan are coming!!! And, Chetta, Ryan, Maria, and Dave are coming!!!!! Kind of.

Chetta and Ryan are coming to HK mid March for several days, then we'll all head to Thailand for several days!

THEN, Chetta told me that our friend Kristina is planning to get married in Veneto early Sept., so she Ryan, Maria and Dave will all be going over.  Guess who else is going to Italy this summer!  Me!  Yey, reunion in Italy!  And since it will be the end of August we'll all meet, Paul will have off work as well! Amazing.

In HK news, Paul and I had a quiet Friday night.  Went out for some mulled wine at the bar downstairs, then head home to catch up on Homeland and Boardwalk Empire.  Wooh shit is hitting the fan in both!

This morning I went to my new gym for the first time.  Nice equipment and everything, but NO towels and NO water cooler.  You can pay $20 for a bath towel.  And you can stick your head in the fountain.  But come on?  What kind of gym is this?  Finger's crossed the new one near my work will be a little more amenable!

Came home cooked up a delish egg n kimchi breakfast and head out to work.  Julia and I manned the Island School Christmas Frost Fair, or whatever is was called.  It was pretty boring but at least there was a waffle station, complete with fresh fruit, ice cream and chocolate AND more mulled wine.  Fantastic.  Finished up and I head home for some sushi, wine and Project Runway, while Paul and all of our friends are musicing it up at CLockenflap; a 2 day music festival at the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.  He says its fun....

Work again tomorrow and then no more Sundayssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Results Are In

And luckily these scores fare a lot better than my CFA 2 exam score....

THEORY(multiple choice and 5 essays):  Pass with distinction, which means > 85%.  I like to think I'm more in the 95% range :)


OVERALL:  Pass with merit

Wooot.  Lauren McPhate WSET level 3 Certificate holder.  I can put it on my business card and I get a cute little green pin.

Next stop diploma level.  2 years.  6 sections.  12 blind tastings.  And then it's on to the MW.  Why did no on tell me in high school that this is a viable career path???

To celebrate the bosses let me leave the Conrad fair early and Paul came home with a lovely Austrian red.  Any of you ever tried Zweigelt or Blaufrankisch?  Totally delicious, spicy, and different than your normal fruity red.   Then today we all went out as a team for an awesome lunch at the only place in Kwun Tong that offers and awesome lunch; L'hotel Elan.  All I have to say is pumpking, arugala, brie antipasto bar.

Also, I have been asked to write the January column for South Side, Sai Kung, and HK Island Magazine about wine trends in 2013!  Ahhh so excited!!! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Massage Monday

After our dinner plans got cancelled, Paul and I decided to take some times to pamper.  First we hit a book signing, but that was too crowded so we left.  We travelled across the island to our new gym where we cashed in our free massage for joining.  Well, I joined and Paul signed up for 2 months (Groupon).

The gym wouldn't honor our 2 month gym memberships from Groupon because we are not permanent residents.  Small print BS.  But, we could turn our Groupons in for a super deal on joining.  The gym near our apartment isn't super convenient and isn't open until 8 which is too late for me; I work out at 7.  [Side note: nothing in HK is open before 9, and usually 11.  It's pretty annoying]  BUT there's a brand new gym opening in Kwun Tong just a block from my work.  And it DOES open at 7.  So I took the deal and as a result the gym honored the 2 month Groupon.  Deal.

And as a bonus to all of this, we each got a free massage!! Yesterday was the first truly cold, grey, miserable day, and it was amazing to just relax for an hour.  Warm and toasty we made our way home to lay in bed and catch up on some reading.  Lovely little Monday!

Woke up at 7 to run today and it's raining.  And cold.  And dark.  Boo.  I think I'll run some stairs and call Chetta, then it's off to the Conrad for 10 hours of Tai Tais (rich ladys who shop) going nuts for Prosecco and truffles.  Weee!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Final Apologies

So this is my last apology for my lack of timeliness with this blog, for from this day on, even if it's just a short 'hey,' I will be more prolific in my blog entries.  I promise.

Big week in America and big week in Hong Kong. I last left you with manicures.  Post mani Paul came and met me after his finished tutoring (he currently has 3 hours a week and I have cancelled mine until after Christmas, but forever in reality.  I'm over it) at Habibi Cafe in Central.  Habibi is a restaurant client of mine so I like to go in and show my face. This was actually Paul and I's 2nd Tuesday in a row.  We're thinking of making it a Tuesual.  They have awesome Egyptian wine (and HOFWs wine of course) and excellent Egyptian food, and every time I go in I seem to either get a new order or invited in.  This week I'll go in and train the staff on the wine; ie lead a wine tasting.  Sometimes my job sucks :)
Rioja Reserva and Bordeaux reds at Lanson

Wednesday we held a lovely tasting for the Lanson Place four star residence hotel in Causeway Bay.  My first day on the job last year was a more formal sit down tasting with Lanson, and this year we were asked to come back and host a wine tasting all of the GMs and MDs from all of the Asian properties.  There were guys there from Shanghai, Bejing, Malaysia, Singapore, and of course HK.  It was a super nice event and really showed me how far we've come as a company.
Tuna on radish.  yum

THANKSGIVING Thursday.  We had a totally amazing evening with Nina, Kenny, and 7 other friends.  Nina and Kenny know how to throw a party.  If I have not conveyed this point before I fail.  They're both excellent cooks, always have their table looking beautiful yet approachable, and make everyone feel comfortable in their home, and this dinner was so amazing and heartfelt.  Nina's sister Kira is in town again (1 year later!) as well as a host of other friends we know through Kina.  After a few bottles of wine and beer (sparkling Shiraz, do it!) we all sat down to a perfect dinner:

Kira, Kenny, Nina, amazeballs turkey
Super moist turkey!
Brusselsprouts with bacon
mashed potatoes
2 stuffings- one in (always better), 1 out
long grain rice with veg
amazing homemade cranberry sauce

And then if that wasn't enough....

Chocolate cake
pumpkin pie
pecan pie
Kira's homemade apple pie

It was spectacular and since Kina and Kira were heading out to Vietnam the next day we got to take some leftovers.  Love leftovers!

Friday woke up in surprisingly good spirits, ran, worked, worked at the American School Christmas fair, slept.  Friday USA was my 10 year high school reunion.  I really wish I could have gone.  Next time...

Saturday worked at the Clearwater Bay school Christmas fair.  This began at 11 and ended 4ish.  Come 12 there were guys pushing around a cooler selling beer and wine by the glass.  A) this would sooo not be OK in the USA B) everyone there was drinking!!  All the parents were beer in hand.  True most of them were Westerners and I suspect Australians, but I sure don't remember by parents ever drinking at 12 in the afternoon at my middle school.  Strange.

Beer cart at school. 
Saturday evening we head over to Brad's house for Thanksgiving part 2.  Last year Brad had over no less than 40 people.  This time it was more intimate with only 20 or so of close friends.  We spent the night eating amazing food (mac and cheese!!!), catching up, playing Catch Phrase, and it was really awesome to think back that it's been over a year since I've met and became friends with all of these awesome people....who just so happen to be American ha.
Buffet- 3 stuffings, creamed corn and spinach, bread, stuffed mushrooms, 2 turkeys, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, wings (2 years running)....

Sunday OFF!!! Woohoo!!  Slept in, watched TV, joined a gym, grocery shopped, checked out Island East Market  (which is the best market in HK and at our doorstep), cooked lunch for the week (shrimp and clams brown rice), and am now catching up on the blog waiting for Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to upload.  Life is good.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving I miss my family so much.  I wish I could meet my sister's new boyfriend.  I wish I could wake up Friday morning and have pumpkin pie and Constant Comment with my mom and Aunt Connie in the kitchen.  I wish I could sit on the floor ignoring the game while my dad yells NOT to go for the 2 point conversion.  I know Scooter misses Thanksgiving too. Oh wait, not he didn't, he's in Hawaii!!!!

Paul and Brad.  Note Paul ate 2 plates that size. 
But if I can't be with my family, or my new Fiehler family, or my JMU family (xo Chetta, Maria, Sherine, Liz, Alex I'm counting you into this group), or my Korea family (miss you all chingus!), I am thankful for my Hong Kong friends who have become my Hong Kong family.  Sorry for the sap, but this is the one time of year you should put it all out there, no?

I am also thankful that I am not an American Gypsy.  Have you seen the TLC show?  Yeah.  Wow.  Sparkle.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Published. Almost

So here it is, another week later later.  Aye!  What's new in Hong Kong:

Anyone seen the new (here at least) Anthony Bordain show where he's only in a city for 24 hours? It's fantastic!  He's currently in Singapore....

Paul's been busy at school.  Lots of kids, lots of discipline, lots of grading....but fun from what I hear.

HOFWs never stops.  I had my first day off in 3 weeks (21 days!) last Sunday.  WOOOOHHH!  Slept in til 9:30 after Paul and I had worked alllllll day Saturday at a market together.  It's so much more fun working on a Saturday when I have P there!

Sunday was amazing though.  Kina threw an awesome pig roast party right on the water of Deepwater Bay.  It was the first 'cold' day we've had, and it was perfect to sit out on the water in our fall gear eating pig and getting to meet some new and old friends.  The general consensus was 'this is the most perfect Sunday.'  As always with Kina, there was great food, but above all a great mix of really fantastic people.  We're sooo sooo sooo excited for Thanksgiving parte dos at Kina's on Thursday!

In HOFWs news, my friend Jackie connected me with one of her colleagues at Fast Media.  Fast Media produces three monthly magazines, Sai Kung, South Side and HK Island, reaching 120,000 affluent readers around HK.  Guess who's their new wine columnist for December (and hopefully going forward)!!!?? Me!  I wrote an article about our organic wines and why they're sure fantastic to help hangovers.  I'm so excited to see it in print....with a byline!

Monday I had another epic dinner at Factory 99.  Old Chinese men, HOFWs, and some randos, pulled together in a back room sipping $5,000 HKD wines eating a smorgasbord of food; you know, Monday. We started with an amazing sample from a Spanish potential supplier- Tempranillo Crianza- with the typical fare; fried fish, fries, and wings with potato skins (I think my boss Greg lives off these).  Then fresh mozz and parma ham, dried fish thingers, chips and nuts (??), then onto sashimi salmon, beef tips, rack of lamb, and grilled salmon steaks.  We washed it all down with a mix of samples from us (mostly good) and some expensive Bordeauxs.  Good, but waaaaay over priced.  The Spanish Crianza (~$100) was way better than the $1000 Bordeaux.  But that's just me.

Today back at the office, manicure, Egyptian dinner with P, and TV.  Tomorrow I'm doing an event at Lanson Place (long stay upscale hotel) for all of the GMs and MDs from around Asia.  My first event with HOFWs was almost exactly one year ago at this very same venue.  Crazy to think it's only been a year/it's already been a year.  I have so many things to be thankful for this year, but I think number one is finding a career and a life path that I'm so ridiculously excited about.  I love wine.  After studying wine I am MORE excited about wine.  After working in wine I am MORE excited about wine.  This is it.  For better or worse, liver, you're stuck with it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where was I?

Oh yes, Wine and Dine.  Wine and Dine is basically a 4 day drunk fest.  Looking back, the whole thing is a total blur.  There were 311 food and wine (mostly wine) vendors, and an estimated 150,000 guests during the 4 days.  We basically spent 2pm-midnight pouring, pouring, pouring.  It was so much fun and see to see all my wine friends in one place trying to survive the chaos and hangovers that ensued.  I had a few occasions to go around tasting, but the most fun was post day 4 (Sunday) with Julia running around sipping the leftovers with whatever vendors were there!

Spreading the bread love
This past weekend was the Wine and Spirits Expo which is my ideal way to spend 3 days, had I not been working.  Wine vendors from around the globe pouring wine and explaining why you should import it into Hong Kong.  Although I didn't have a chance to walk around at all, we did have several guys from Italy come by to bestow samples and cheese on us.

I should also mention my amazing lunch day 1.  I signed up for the facebook contest and won (because there was a lack of people paying $660 for the lunch price!) a wine pairing lunch with Debra Meiburg, Master of Wine.  We had a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (which was new for me), a white from the South of France, a rose from the Rhone, a red from the Rhone, a red from Bordeaux, and a sweet from the Loire.  Delish.

Debra explaining her favorite wine pairing for the course
Debra is an American, ex-accountant, ex-vegetarian, (with a loaded husband), Master of Wine.  She is basically who I want to be in 15 years.  Google her!  We had an amazing 3 course lunch with some really fantastic French wines.  On top of being delicious and fun, it was interesting to sit down to lunch in a methodical way and really analyze how the wine and food flavors work together.  This is something I am going to implement at HOFWs; monthly wine dinners!

Thursday evening South of France tasting
Paul came and helped out for Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, and we were lucky enough to pick up a few leftover bottles to do our own at home wine tasting.  There was definitely no going out this weekend!  All day wine tasting is exhausting :)  And I should mention that Saturday was opened to the public.  8 billion Chinese people pointing at bottles yelling 'Discount Discount.'  The disconnect between Eastern and Western manners is amazing.  I suppose the signs all over public transportation demanding 'no spitting' should be an indication of this...but that's a whole nother story.

Paul procured me some flowers
Sunday up and at it for what is definitely my favorite event that we do; Island East Market.  This is my first time working it, but the 3rd time HOFWs has done it.  Basically it's the largest farmer's market in Hong Kong....outside my front door.  Paul and Steve came out and helped Greg and I make samples and pour some wine.

And she was darn proud of her doggy bjorn
And now tis Sunday night, went for a nice run (thank god), cooked breakfast (Paul's on a Spanish omelet kick where he's obsessed with creating the most perfectly authentic version) and lunch for tomorrow, and now have retired to the couch.  Ahhhhh breath.

Tomorrow is another bazaar, but luckily Tuesday-Friday office.  Double wooh.  Is it Christmas yet?
And in the most important news of the week, Paul and I got matching American Apparel tees.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No Sleep Til


Hi, blog.  Remember me?  It's me, Lauren.

So November is the most critical month of the year in the wine industry.  And for me working for a company that never turns down an event, this means no days off work for 3 straight weeks.  I suspect I may have Sunday the 18th off, but this has yet to be confirmed.

I should mention that this is not complaining.  One of my customers sent me an email saying, 'Remember with all of this work hard, you need to play hard.'  And indeed we do. Post Wine and Dine (which ended midnight Sunday) Julia and I stayed around and played with the French gourmet shop owners.  We ate baguettes and drank rose d'Anjou until we were about to crash.

Monday/Tuesday office, Wednesday I was at the American Club for a Christmas bazaar.  There was a surprising lack of election coverage, and no one seemed to care, except Laura or I who were watching our phones, when it was announced Obama won.  Tai Tais (wealthy women who have nothing to do but shop all day).

Yesterday was the first day of the International Wine and Spirits Expo. Time for the printer, the bank, and day 2....more to come

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy Pants

Thinking about everyone back at home now.  It sounds like my DC people are enjoying this, no word from NJ, but I would imagine it's a lot less fun.  Hopefully this will all turn back to normal, with no snow, soon!!  Love and thoughts- xoxo.

Today marks the end of sanity.  Tomorrow Sean and I will work the American Women's Association Bazaar from 10-6 and then RUN over to the Wine and Dine festival until midnight.

Wine and Dine til midnight

Wine and Dine til midnight

Wine and Dine til midnight

Fortunately, I like both wine-ing and dining, so it should be a great few (loooong) days.  See you in December!

Friday, October 26, 2012


Last night I met with my WSET educator (their word, not mine) Ian to discuss my future in wine education.  Currently there is only one diploma level (4) course available in Hong Kong and it is 4x more expensive that that of the ones offered in the UK.  Absurd, no?  There is buzz in the air that perhaps another course could be opening at HKU Space (where I took 3) very shortly.  FIngers crossed.

Back to my meeting.  Ian made it sound not very difficult at all to become a level 2 educator.  I need to apply to WSET and HKU Space and then next time the WSET people are in HK (they're here this week and should return in March) I take a 3 day course and bam, I'm good to go.  So I think I just may look into that.

Diploma level, on the other hand, appears not to be easy at all.  Nope, not one bit.  But I'm excited to start nonetheless.

TODAY after an incredibly frustrating morning (computer issue + Chinese bankers = headache frustrationville) the HOFWs team head over to the Langtham Place Hotel in Mongkok for a Burgundy tasting!  Despite the mobs (of mainlanders), the event was super fun.  We learned some more about the wine making in Burgundy (short maceration periods for red; usually 5-10 days), tasting some spectacular wines, and ran into some wine friends including Ian, Violet, Francis to name a few.

Then Greg and Sean treated Julia and I to their favorite go-to; Chung King Mansions.  It's THE place in town to go for legit Indian food.  And probably stomach bugs too.  4 pm rolls around and tis time to call it a day!!

Paul and I are going on a guided tour of some of Picasso's drawings this evening (if I can roll off this couch and out of this curry hangover) and then have the whole weekend off!!! That's right kids, two whole days with no work!  Woohoo!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Get excited

Fact: I SUCK.   At blogging recently, and for that I am terribly sorry!  If it helps, I have had horrible horrible guilt everyday about not writing it.  Somehow or another something else always comes up.  I shall now tell you what those elses were...

Tent City
This was started 1 week ago.

Oh camping and I have a long history.  From the waterbug catching days of yore, all the way to my last camping adventure in the backwoods of West Virginia.  It snowed.  They've been the best of times and the worst of times.

Who am I kidding, camping is always fun. Paul and I set out (now 2 weeks ago) to Tai Long Won for an evening of no tv, no iphone, no nothing but us, some marshmallows, a bottle of sherry, and a tent.  To get to camping at TLW you first have to MTR to Choi Hung.  Then mini bus to Sai Kung.  Then taxi to middle of nowhere.  Then hike 45 minutes down to the beach.

best part of camping
But then you're there, and it's amazing.  Big open beaches with less than 20 people, one restaurant, and the stars.  We put down our brand spanking new pop up tent and went about setting up a fire.  We had some rice at the local restaurant, went back to camp, lit our fire, and roasted marshmallows and drift wood until we fell asleep.

Paul packing up
We woke up at the crack of dawn (with the other 7 or so campers) to a surprising cool.  Went for a quick swim, packed it up, and head home for crabs with Kina.

Sunset dinner on the beach
Love Kina.  We always have so much fun cooking up something random and trying to figure out how to comfortably fit 4 people around our tiny side table.  And the Island East Market provided some fun entertainment inclusive of 2 different a capella versions of Gangnam style.  Sunday Funday.

Last week I'm sure we went to tastings and events, but I can't recall now and don't feel like getting up for my diary, so we'll just skip ahead until Saturday.

Paul and I attempting a tandem, no dice
Paul and I MTRed up to Shatin (NT) to meet Laura and Derek for a day of biking along the river.  It was a beautiful day, we got some sweet bikes, and biked it along birds and jumping fish until we found a little cafe where we all enjoyed some fish and chips (you shouldn't order fish and chips from a Chinese run establishment- smushyville) and a beer.  Good times and good news that Laura had entered a raffle with some really sweet prizes.

Beautiful day for biking in Shatin
Worked all day Sunday, then Monday...

Derek, Paul, and Laura take a break
6 of us had been going back and forth for weeks about scheduling a groupon date.  Jackie, Justin, Laura, Derek, Paul and I all bought a super groupon for all you can eat sushi and all you can drink sake for 2.5 hours.  But as you may suspect, getting 6 socially active people to sit down to dinner on the same night at the same time, can be quite difficult.  Paul finally figured out a solution, the night before Chung Yeung Festival (no work).  We were all pumped and then 5 pm Paul receives a phone call:

While I slave away working on Sunday, Paul goes on an amazing junk.  Nina seen grilling
'Hi, you have a reservation for 6 tonight'


'I'm really sorry but we can no longer honor your groupon....there was a fire last night'

Awesome fashion show/concert last Thursday
For real!?  Apparently yes.  The running suspicion is that this groupon ran the poor guy bankrupt, and a week before expiry the dude lit it up.

Paul and I ended up using a different sushi buffet groupon (we have a problem) which was quite lovely!  All you can eat sashimi AND ice cream.  Yes, please.

Friday evening wine tasting with KVB Kunlin
Tuesday was Chung Yeung festival which is the 9th day of the 9th month in the lunar calendar.  Uber bad luck.  888 is best- 99 is worst apparently.  You're supposed to climb a mountain to avoid the inevitable flood (ancient folklore?), but really people go to the graves of their ancestors to pay respect.

Foodie 3rd anniversary party last week
Paul and I went around shopping for HOFWs tableware, hit up a great Indian lunch which later tried to kill me, then went for foot massages, also purchases via a groupbuy.  I told you, problem.

Paul junks, Lauren works
This alleged foot massage was no such thing!  It was torture.  Pure foot torture for one full hour.  The place was lovely- it even had a fish tank in the floor! But man this woman went to town on my legs.  I have the bruises to prove it!

Anyway, spent the evening recovering with Courtney, Patrick and Steve (2 floors below with same apt- and bestie) drinking wine watching the 3rd and final presidential debate.  Wine, beer, and friends generally leads to no TV watching, and this was no exception.  Good thing I have Facebook to tell me Obama won.  Sorry Mitt.

Today back to work.  Then hit up a wonderful Swiss wine tasting in Wan Chai before heading home to write this little diddy and talk to my parents and Aunt Elda on Skype.  Thanks for the blog chastise Dad, I needed some motivation!

Till next time, which I promise will not be 2 weeks later.
Scary old lady drinking Swiss wine at the Matterhorn