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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Star Gazing with Wines

Julia and I joined Kedington at the Upperhouse for their annual wine fair last night for a tasting of no less than 80 wines.  While I can't claim to have tried them all (I certainly tried), I can report on some of my highlights. 

New Zealand

We started on whites in Argentina, made our way round through Chile, Australia, California, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and finally France.  Then made our way back through the reds. 

Reds and sweet from Woodstock (McLaren Vale, Austalia)
Of all the whites, two stuck out.  The first was from Argentina, a reserve Chardonnay.  This Mendozan wine spent 6 month in French oak, was smooth and please our entire party!  The second was classically, a Chablis.  Both of these wines were similar; lean, crisp, and totally Chardonnay.  And both were under $150!

So many wines to choose from!

Of the reds I especially enjoyed the Dolcetto Lagrein, and at $99, it's a steal!  This Italian varietal was produced in the Limestone Coast of Australia, was smooth, fruity, and really wowed me.

Miss Julia hard at work
Both Julia and I had the same overall favorite of the evening;  Primus Malbec 2004.  This wine was spectacular.  So spectacular that they don't make it every year; only in the best of years.  This special unfiltered wine needs to be decanted, and you could just taste the rugged earthiness in it.  It tasted like dirt, and I mean that in the best way possible.

The whole event was just spot on.  From the location (outside overlooking the city from the Upper House), to the reps (all flown in specially for this event and just chock full of knowledge), to the gourmet food (whole ham, charcuterie, Parmesan), to the weather, to the staff, to everything.  Spot on.  Thanks, Kedington!!  Can't wait until next year!

WINE life

Last Friday I took my WSET level 3 exam.  And I'm pretty sure I killed it.  There were some really silly questions about opening and chilling bottles, but overall I think I knew what I was talking about, and hopefully that will come through in my score.  In December.  Bah!

I have also committed to another year (more?) at House of Fine Wines.  I sat down with Greg and Sean yesterday and we all put it on the table.  This is the best job I've ever had, in the best industry that exists, so bring it 2013.  Not only will I continue my WSET studies this coming year, but I will be rewarded with a trip to visit our suppliers in Piemonte, Italy!!!!

Off to work!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Xie Xie, Taipei

Oh Taipei, you are so very strikingly different from Hong Kong!  And yet, quite similar to that long ago familiar Korea.
Daan Park

I say this for several reasons.  I know I have been to Taipei before, 3 years ago!, but it was my first month in Asia and I think since my perception of things has changed.  The first thing that reminds me of Korea is the lack of Western people, things, and languages.  I remember thinking that Taipei had great English...I guess compared to Seoul.  After living in HK for year it was really quite shocking at the language barrier.

Another sad similarity; shit wine!  Just like being back in the good ole ROK.  Only wine available is a) over priced garbage at convenience stores or b) super over priced decent wine at select grocery stores.  Again selection limited.  There's a reason I live here.

And finally the street food.  Ohhhhh the glorious street food.  Available almost everywhere, and almost always delicious (ly horrible for you).

Grilled squid is amazing!
But, the overall opinion was that we LOVE Taipei.  The weather was ideal, although I think atypical.  Beautiful sunny crisp days with a light breeze.  It felt like fall.  Well a subtropical fall at least.

CKS Memorial
And there doesn't seem to be anyone living in Taiwan.  We never saw crowds.  We were never pushed on the sidewalks or MRT.  Didn't even have to wait in line at immigration.  Sidewalks clear.  Hotels available.  Life is good.  Perhaps I have been in HK a little too long when I have come to expect someone to sit on my lap on the MTR....

Doggie bows
But yeah, awesome.  Night one, get in and go directly to Garrett's apartment in Guting, which is kind of a university area.  Good to see Garrett again, and it reminded me again of Korea.   Older style apartment, lots of motorbikes around, drinking cheap beers on the couch...good times.

Day 2 and we explored the city. We didn't have a set agenda so we just wandered.  Started at Chang Kai Shek (sp?) Memorial, which was my favorite site to see on the last visit.  Then strolled for hours down random streets, stopping to sample whatever looked good, and made our way to Taipei 101, the second tallest building in the world.

DTF stair picnic
We marveled at the height, and quickly descended to Din Tai Fung.  I don't know if you've heard me rave about DTF before, but I have.  It's a wonderful Taiwanese dumpling place which I have frequented in Korea, HK, and now at the flagship in the shadow of T101.  Not wanting to let the beautiful weather go to waste, we go our xiao long baos to go and sat out in the sun enjoying the best little soup dumplings in the world.

That evening we went over to Longshan Temple which is beautiful, and then over to the night market to marvel at the cobras (no snake blood shots this time) hanging in the restaurants trying to lure the tourists in.

Sunday we woke up early and head straight down to Wulai, one hour south of Taipei.  We had booked a hotel, and luckily found someone upon our arrival who spoke decent enough English to help us find it.  This town is no bigger than one city block long with a few alleys leading off it, but I guarantee we would have spent hours wondering without this mans help!

Top of the waterfall

The hotel was beautiful.  Overlooked the hot springs below which fed directly into our own private tub with a simple phone call!  We spent the afternoon hiking a few km up to the highest waterfall in Taiwan.  We caught the cable car up to, well we didn't know what, just knew it was the top of the waterfall.

Turns out there was a whole 'resort' on top.  This was probably the place to be in the 90s, but geeze, place be worn down! Paul totally loved it, I loved his enthusiasm.  It was really beautiful, they just had these weird gimmicky things along the way.  Example; a lake to row boats; no water.  A water ride; green icky water and not running.  A 'cloudview tram'; no train to be seen.  Parrot on a stand; sqwaked like hell hath come every time you look at it.

We had a good time wandering around, smelling fresh air, seeing the next 'would have been cool back in the day' trap.  Then head back into town for amazing local street food and hot spring relaxing.
View from breakfast at our hotel

Next morning we head back to Taipei after breakfast to do some more wandering.  I'm telling ya, no people in Taiwan!  Sidewalks were amazingly clear, and we had so much fun seeing what was around each corner.  We rounded out the day with a trip to the best night market, Shiin.

Shiin Market
We ate the best food of the trip; grilled spicy corn, grilled spicy squid, and then got pedicure (me), and massage (Paul).  Then hit a night market near our hotel where we found the best simplest food ever; onion pancaked fried with egg and kimchi.

Sadly, next morning we had a plane to catch.  This was totally different from any other trip Paul and I have taken together, a mix of sightseeing, relaxing, and no beaches.  Can't wait for Christmas!