Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crazy Night In

Paul's going out with his friend Derek tonight which means I have the apartment to myself.  Woohoo!! I foresee Top Chef, Project Runway, and wine nerd books in my near future. 

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The weekend!!!! Kind of.  Doesn't quite count as a weekend if you spend your Saturday in the hallway of the Japanese International School hawking foie gras to 10 years olds.  Despite that...

Friday evening Paul met me after a successful day of sales (I have a tasting with a new restaurant client next Thursday in Sai Ying Pun!) at Duecento Otto in Sheung Wan.  We enjoyed a lovely house wine and whilst discussing Bali wedding options, aroused the interest of our imbibing neighbor.  Anthony, from Chicago, informed us that he had recently traveled through Indonesia.  He mentioned several islands off of Bali which would be of particular interest for our honeymoon.  To be researched.  After we shared some India/Nepal/Asia stories, Paul and I head our for dinner.

Saturday- said Japanese school.  For. 5. hours.  5. freaking. hours. In. the. New. Territories.  Awayfromeverything.
Dip your hand in wax making

Come 5 I meet Paul at Fofo for a tasting hosting by Globus.  I had met Peter of Globus Wine Cellars a few weeks prior, and enrolled in their newsletter.  The tasting was amazing!!  Not only did I run into Alex and his girlfriend, Jenny (he reads my blog!), but also met my WSET friend Adrienne, and co-worker Julia for a fantastic beginning to the evening.  We worked our way through quite a few wines in just an hour [full review on www.houseoffinewines.blogspot.hk tomorrow], enjoyed our favorites on the rooftop, and then parted for our individual plans for the night.

Paul and I trolleyed it to Happy Valley, a solid 45 minutes on the tram with some left over Rhone, and then met Katie at new friends Tom and Caroline's apartment.  Woah!  They have a view overlooking the racetrack (horses) and the apartment itself was gorgeous; wood paneling and open space and modern...stunning!

We hoofed it out to Golden Valley to meet up with Kina for a hot pot dinner.  This was both Paul and I's first hot pot in HK, and I'm a bit sad to say we were a bit disappointed.  It was OK.  The dumplings were good. But the Sizechuan numming peppers kinda just killed it.  Again, OK but not mind blowing.

2 flavors to choose
Katie, Tom and Caroline
My own blend of dipping sauce
Kenny sauces
no one ever claimed it wasn't messy

Post dinner walked down to an amazing hotel rooftop bar, but Paul and I being a bit tipsy at this point (11) decided to make our way home.  Pumpkins after midnight.

Sunday!!!  No work, Sunday!!  Slept in, crawled through the Island East Market saying hi to Julia, Sean, Greg, and Ollie and Joanna, and Csilla, and RJ, and other market friends, then walked along the water to the Sai Wan Ho ferry pier.  One ferry goes to Kwun Tong where I work, the other goes somewhere else.  So we hopped on that one hoping to find something cool...

And something cool we found!!!!  Lei Yue Mun is amazing!!!  This is a fishing village I had been hearing about for it's awesome seafood, but could never ever remember the name or location.  Well, here it was, just a short 15 minute ferry away!
giant rock lobsters
We had already eaten, and so decided that this was for sure a place we'd have to bring Chetta and Ryan...and Kina!  Ferried back and bought a weeks worth of supplies for food.  Revisted all of our favorite Island East Market vendors (love Csilla and her Hungarian wines!! and Ollie and Joanna's organic wines! And RJs restaurant advice and pies!) and came home and cooked!!
blackbean burger mania

I made black bean burgers for the week and freezer, Paul made Xiao long bao, then popcorn to round it off.  Nice little Sunday capped off with an organic wine from Sicily a la Paul.  Life is good. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Best Wines Ever

So last night I met with some ladies to sip on wine at Porto Fino, a new Mediterranean resto in Central.  Julia, Jackie and I sipped the sub par wines whilst chatting about new restaurants and travels.  It has come to my attention that I am now a wine snob, well that's what my friends say at least.  I disagree.  Although I may think (and vocalize) a wine is not great (or even good), I will still drink it without complaint.  I can just recognize good from bad now, but I do not discriminate.  Especially when it's free.

Post tasting, Jackie and I head to La Cabane to meet Alicia.  This is soo my favorite new place.  The wines are all natural and from France, and because there are no chemicals or any additives, they taste like WINE.  Unadulterated delicious wine.  I still haven't had their insane looking cheese, but I'm sure I will soon.  Last night we split a couple carafes of a wine from the South of France; Carignan, Mouvedre, and Cinsault blend, and it was just lovely.  So full of flavor and tannin. 

Today the big boss if off in Macau If all goes well we should be heading into retirement in these next few months :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wine Week, aren't they all?

Despite the worst book I have ever put my mits on, this was a fantastic week. (I realize I am now 1/2 way though the next week)
My new hot issue

On Monday and Tuesday Paul and I enjoyed quiet nights in.  Tutoring, groceries, unpacking, cooking, facemask.  The norm.

 alll for Patrick and I
Wednesday and the tastings began. There's this brand new restaurant behind my office in Kwun Tong.  This is big news because Kwun Tong is severly (I cannot stress enough- I bring lunch everyday because if not my 2 choices are mediocre sushi or a sandwich from Johnny Cafe) short on quality restaurants.  The new restaurant boasts a Michelin rated chef, chic albeit small interior, and a pricey lunch menu.

Wednesday they hosted a winemaker tasting.  Kind of.  Seeing as the winemaker didn't show up, I don't know if you could really call it a winemaker tasting, but he was supposed to be there so I suppose that's how it was marketed.  Oh, why didn't he come?  Probably because the only guests of the evening were me and my friend Patrick, whom I met a wine tasting way back November 2011 and works nearby.

This was fine as we had unlimited access to some fantastic Rhone wines, as reported here.  The following evening Patrick and i went to another tasting from the same wine company as the previous night; Tina Cellar.  This was a little better attended, and woooow we tried some awesome (and awesomely expensive) wines.

After the tasting I walked over to Wan Chai art centre for an art opening and craft beer tasting.  Turns out friends Sarah and Fullton were also in for a night of peacocks and koi fish.  For real.  I chatted up the beer guy (Jon from Hof Leaf) inquiring if I could purchase some beers to bring home to poor Paul who basically quarentined himself all week with papers to grade.

Jon told me a bit about himself.  American.  Ex-accountant.  Moved to Korea to teach.  Quit that to move to Hong Kong.  to work in Booze.  Hmmm familair story, Jon.    And then gave me 4 different bottles of Rogue to take home, gratis!

Friday we had an amazing, I'm talking soul food at its finest, dinner at Magnolia for Derek's last birthday before 30.  Magnolia is a very popular private kitchen, and for good reason! Hot damn the food was good, and there was even cornbread!!  We all toasted with a magnum of Champagne (which the staff never brought into our room- money down the drain, thank you) and some of HOFWs finest...under $100 :)

Saturday work.  Isn't that the same old story?  Followed by a Japanese dinner, followed by Korbin Kameron wine (excellent), followed by Django Unchained.  Fantastic movie by the way.

Sunday I played tour guide to my favorite winemakers; Giancarlo and Davide Ponte, and their Export Manager, Linda Paci.  Linda is hands down the best/nicest/pleasant/pragmatic/quick/awesomest person I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  She's prompt and pleasant and it was so so so exciting for me to meet her in person.  Giancarlo and Davide, despite their lack of English, were super positive and fun forces just to be near.

After picking them up from the airport, we met Paul at Maxim's for a dim sum lunch.  Poor choice.  These Italians were sick of Chinese after spending the past week in China (and who can blame them) and lacked some of Paul's enthusiasm for char siu bao.  We not so stuffedly head out for the Star Ferry to TST, a brief walk, glass of wine, and adieu!  They were tired from traveling so we parted.  Paul and i enjoyed the rest of our early evening sipping wine in Central while he graded and I further tortured myself with White Jacket.  Seriously, just shoot me it's so bad.

Ugh I cannot say enough about how sweet Linda, Davide and Giancarlo were.  They are totally warm and have invited us into their home and family this summer!  I can't wait to visit!  Cheese, salami, and Barbera in the vineyard!!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cny resolution

My Chinese New Years resolution is to grow my vocabulary. If I ever want a shot at writing I need bigger words. (Case in point. Bigger?)

After reading .5 chapters of the eat live run blog ladies book (white jacket required) I am about to jump. Ugh this is the worst writing/dialogue I have ever read! And i read twilight. And it's sooo self indulgent. If youre going to gloat and write about how "special" you are, at least have the audacity to use some intelligent words. My god.

Off to fetch the winemakers for a day of dim sum and sightseeing!

Monday, January 14, 2013


when in korea

I love Japan.  It's quite possibly my favorite place ever.  To be fair, I was only there for 4 days, three of which were spent at a luxury condo with full concierge service, 2 whole days were spent skiing through some insane powder, and the whole time was spent some totally awesome people.

Paul and I left HK on a 1am flight, arrived a short 3 and half hours later in Seoul at 5am.  Man even at 5am Incheon is a sweet airport.  It's clean, there's free wifi, and there are a plethora of benches from which to choose for our brief respite.   Paul and I got a solid 3.5 hours of sleep in before we had to drag ourselves to the next leg of the trip.

nice little set up.  ha.
cool rest stop
I should also mention I love Korean air.  They have entertainment systems complete with movies (a lot!), shows, music channels, and I think there were also video games.  They also had Korean wine (Majuang!) which made me laugh, all of the flight attendants are gorgeous and super attentive.  When I was asked if I wanted pork or beef I replied that I was a vegetarian.  They politely informed me I should sign up beforehand (which I always do and am surprised I did not here) and then rushed up to first class to bring me an omelet...with bacon, but it was still better than beef or pork!  And then she asked for my passport and return flight info and went ahead and got me veg set for the way back!!  What!?  And to top it all off, the food was good too!  Got bibimbap on one leg.
 We got into Sapporo at 1:30 and quickly found a shuttle bus service who told us to meet by the green chairs at 1:55.  I'm not even joking, at 1:55 sharp we were picked up by our guide with a sign to follow and we started walking to the bus.  Perhaps I've been spending too much time in South East Asia, but the time they tell you is never the time it actually takes!!!  Amazing, Japan.  I love you already.

Then the bus.  2.5 hours through nothing but snow snow snow.  There were no people, no houses, no nothing, just snow.  Until about an hour in when we stopped at a rest stop.  A super clean awesome rest stop with awesome Japanese bathrooms.  All of the toilets in Japan have heated seats and bidets; if you're into that.
Friday am view from our living room
Then we arrive in Niseko in the dark, which begins at 4, are picked up by the Niseko Company's concierge, and are brought to our house for the weekend; Byakko.  AMAZING!!  I have never seen so much snow anywhere in my life.  It was already ridiculously deep and hadn't stopped since we got on the bus.  Apparently the Siberian winds meet with the Pacific wet and make this a powder heaven.

getting ready for the slopes
The house itself is immaculate.  Big, beautiful, heated, and very very Western.  We all kept laughing that we thought we were in Pennsylvania or NJ.  There were some Asian artifacts and furniture pieces, but otherwise it was pretty Western.  Paul and I settled into one of 2 basement rooms, and then waited for Brad and Ravenna's arrive just an hour later.

We spent the first night in awe of how awesome our lives are.  We sipped our duty-free white russians sitting in front of the turn dial fire playing Jenga and circle of death.  Nice little Thursday.

Paul and I feel asleep and missed Laura and Derek's arrival at mid-night.  The next am we were all up pretty early and excited to get out on the slopes.  From our back porch you could see the Hirafu ski area.  Well, if it wasn't white out snowing which it did most of the time.  We picked up some rentals and then skied!!!!  In amazing powder!!!  All day!!!  And into the night!!!  The mountain stays open until 8, but by 6 or so Laura and I were frozen and called it a day.  The men folk stayed a bit longer, and we all reconvened in the house for dinner.
takoyaki; fried potato with squid in the middle.  topped wih eel sauce and bento flakes

We went out for a 'Japanese' dinner which apparently is quite difficult to do in Niseko.  Niseko is probably 99% Australians with the occasional Japanese or Canadian thrown in.  The dinner was great and Diane showed up just in time after a 3 hour delay; takoyaki and fried stuff for me, pizza, penne, fried chicken, edamame, and sake.  Waaaay too much sake.

Sake to me
Saturday up early-ish again and we decided to ski a different part of the mountain, Annapuri.  There are four ski areas, and on the map they all look pretty close.  Not so much.  30 minute bus later and Paul and I got there, and Derek and Diane decided to ski/board over.  I'm so so so glad we didn't as it was some pretty ridiculously steep slopes.  I'm a weenie skier and prefer to stay on my greens and blues (red in Japan).  This part of the mountain was a bit easier and smaller than the first day.  It was so much fun and later we were able to utilize Brad's walkie talkies to meet up with he and Laura.  We skied our little hearts and legs out and sadly had to leave at 5.

bus stop AND indian takeaway
Not wanting to pay $400 usd for a private shuttle to the airport the next morning (no AM buses!!!) we parted ways on Saturday night.  We waited in the cold cold cold for the bus, met a cool American girl who assured us this bus is never this late, and then got to the train station.  2.5 hour train to Sapporo and we checked into the nicest Best Western I have ever seen.  The room was impeccable, and every square inch was utilized with the utmost efficiency.

raw egg n hairtail n kinyip (sesame leaves)
Despite being mid-night, we decided to head out in the snow for some late night sushi.  There was a cute Izakaya, WaraWara, within a block so we hunkered down.  Okonamyaki, raw hairtail (amazing), and an assortment of sashimi and we finally felt we were eating some legit Japanese.  Oh and sake.  Of course sake.  We wish we could have been at the house for 2 more nights with everyone else (did Scott ever make it??), but it was nice to end on a nice Japanese meal and room.

5am get up, subway to airport, 4 hour flight, an hour in Seoul [we soooooo miss Korea!  I miss Korea people, the food, the snow...maybe not.....the friends, the Konglish. Ah.  Planning to go back in October for our National Day holiday], 4 more hours, and we were back in HK, all before dark.

loved that room
Paul and I are both sooo sooo pumped to go back to Japan as tourists.  We want to hit Tokyo next.  And Derek, Laura, Brad, Ravenna, Diane, Paul, and I are all super pumped about Asian ski trips.  Perhaps next year Kimchitown :)  

Sapporo is the COOLEST airport.  But not when your flight leaves at 8:30....

Hokkaido is famous for it's dairy products.  Milk!

The group!  Ravena, Diane, Paul, me, Laura, Derek and Brad <3

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Now I Remember

My final resolution is to....

Work on Public Speaking 

I want to be able to get up in front of 50+ people and speak comfortably about wine, or anything!  I currently feel comfortable getting up and speaking in front of my entire company.  All 3 of them.  Oh and in front of Paul and friends.  Bring some randos into that and I shut down.  Any tips?

Ohhh Asian Haircuts

As I have bemoaned in the past, it tis hard to get a decent haircut in Asia.  My last few have been ok, but it has been far too long since my last so I finally cracked today and just stopped into a random one I saw it Kwun Tong.

It had a lovely outside and looked promising.  Sit down and am immediately handed 2 English magazines by a nice young woman who apparently doesn't speak English.  Good start.  Hair wash complete with scalp scratching and massage.   Then I tell the haircut man (always a man here) just a trim, perhaps a little face framing.  In America this generally means shorter near the face.

I indulge in my UK Marie Claire and then I feel some razor action going on.  Oh no no my kind sir, we don't do that here.  He kindly obliged and then a few minutes later he finished and pulled out the mirror so I could see the back.

Short in back.  Long in front.  Tboz circa Waterfalls 1996 style.  Hmmm.

This is not from wind, this is very intentional
I am then lead back to the hair basin for a rinse (unnecessary but whatever) by a new hair man and then it's blowdry time.  He puts tons of wax in, twists and dries in sections, which I appreciate but by the end  I look like I have an afro....a frizzy afro.   There is so much stuff in my hair now that I am totally intrigued by how it looks....and oddly kind of into it, but I am hugely skeptical of how this fro will look tomorrow when left in my hands.

I'll keep ya posted.

One more sleep til vacay!! 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Follow Up Resolutions

Invite people over more often

It's so un-Hong Kong, but that's why I need to make the extra effort.  Post Japan Quarry Bay party cominng soon.

I had a really good new one and now can't remember....will post when I think of it.....

Sunday was birthday Sunday!!  After a weightlifting am work out, Paul and I head to the Pawn for Will'ls surprise birthday brunch.  We'd never been to the Pawn but I had always wanted to.  It's in the heart of Wan Chai and is housed in a super old British building that used to be, dah dah dahhhhh, a pawn shop.

View from Pawn roof
We had a table outside in the sun and it was so wonderful to catch up with Will and Sarah, Kina, Allison and Michael, and Kueng.  And Paul's blood pudding wasn't too bad either.

Then it was off to Central to catch up with my group of lady friends for Cathy's birthday celebration at Posto Pubblico.  It's super hard to believe I hadn't been to PP before as it's Linguini Fini (my favorite place in HK)'s predecessor, and I'm glad I finally had a reason!  Food was great and $100 bottomless Prosecco is nothing to sneeze at.

Monday back at it.  Busy, busy, busy, followed by tutoring Ian.  His mom contacted me last week and I couldn't say no.  Ian is just the sweetest kid that he makes it enjoyable.  And after not seeing his mom in a month, lady is pregnant!!  Due in March, just like Ian.

2 more sleeps til JAPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Do today has basically been the coolest day ever.

1.  I slept in til 8.  Ok not that cool, but

2.  Spent a solid 3 hours responding to emails and researching Niseko, Japan....

3.  So ridiculously excited for Japan!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

4.  SIgned up and paid for WSET diploma.  It's official, the next 2 years of my life are devoted to the study of wine!

5.  Bought new Arcteryx jacket for $100 (and Paul got one too, and we got gloves)

6.  Made nice with my client at Kitchentainment.  Love Gabe!

7.  Went for an amazing walk on this beautiful day with Paul. (We bought lotto tickets. come on my lucky 6)

8.  Hit up Flying Winemaker for an awesome wine tasting with Adrienne from my class.   I love all my wine friends!  All of the wines were fantastic (see review on HOFWs blog soon) and best part of all....

9.  Was talking to a Cali guy about what wines he liked, passed him my card, to which he replied....'I know HOFWs......I was on your blog this morning'  FOR REAL!?  People read my work blog!!?  People that I don't know!?  Soooo happy right now.

10.  Almost tying the blog excitement, we found this amazing new (3 months) wine bar, La Cabane.  All natural wines from France.  Awesome staff (thanks Alben!) and awesome friends; Adrienne, Faye, Sean, Allison, Michael, and of course, Paul :)

11.  Amazeballs food at Habibi Cafe.

12.  Home by midnight.

Best day ever.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I don't generally make serious new years resolutions, but this year it seems to be a hot topic in Hong Kong.  To join in the January madness I have come up with several for myself....

1.  Get in shape!

This whole working long days at wine tastings really hits you...in the gut.  Between saltines, wine samples (one for you, one for me), and all of the holiday parties and hangovers, this kid has been neglecting her new gym membership. 

According to my personal training session last night I am on the path for achy joints and bad posture if I don't start working out NOW (with him for a mere $800hkd/hour).  I will continue running in the am, but will step up the iron pumping post work. Riiiight.

2.  File taxes for the past 3 years.  

Oops!  This probably should have been done, well, 3 years ago.  But, seeing as it wasn't, perhaps 2013 is the year to do it.  Fingers crossed for lucky #13.

3.  Keep up to date on industry news

I think we all have a tendency to turn to facebook when we don't feel like thinking.  Other online vices include; eatliverun.com (even though she annoys the crap out of me), aliensdayout.com (gotta support the vegans in Korea), pinterest.com (what a freakin time killer),and occasionally I'll kill a few minutes reading my own blog (this is important as my memory continues to deteriorate).

Instead, my new time killers will be valuable to my career; wine blogs! joedressner.com, vinography.com, decanter.com, wineanorak.com, alicefeiring.com, vincibo.com, wineterroirs.com......

4.  Drink more expensive wine

I have a tendency to drink cheap (~$100) wine as I can't rationalize spending so much on something that will be gone so quickly.  Well, as part of getting fit (#1) I want to cut back the booze (read take it back to 3 or 4 nights a week), and as such can allocate those saved hundos on nicer bottles of wine, which will help me kill it in wine school.

So that's about all I can think of for now.  I'm sure there's a lot more things I should improve on in my life this year, but that's what I've got so far.  I'll come back to this in early April with a Q1 assessment. 

Off to Din Tai Fung with Paul's co-workers for some aaaaammmmmazing soup dumplings (xiao long bao!)!!  Tomorrow we have not a thing planned, woohoo. Then Sunday brunch (at 2pm- their word, not mine) with the ladies for Cathy's birthday.  Ta!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's official, 2013 is the best year ever

Japan on Thursday!!!

and this just booked....

Bali Feb 8-13th!!

[About that: My bosses, classically, waited until today to tell me that I do in fact have all of Chinese New Year off.  Well guess what, flights have jumped to over $1,000 since I was looking a month ago!

So we finally found some flights that were affordable-ish and here's how they'll work.  Leave Saturday 5pm---->Jakarta--->arrive Bali Sunday 9 am.  Awesome.

Here's the more fun flight.  Leave Bali Wednesday 11 pm--->Jakarta--->arrive HK 6 am.  Straight to work for this kid.  At least I'll be tan when I get in :)]

I will head over to AWSEC next week to pay for my diploma level WSET course which begins in February.  I have finally decided to do an 'independent study' which basically means I study and arrange tastings on my own.  Woot.  First test April!

And then, if things couldn't be any more fun, Chetta and Ryan are coming in March!!!  I love 2013 already!!

Happy New Year Hanoi Style!

I last left you in the cold windy rains of Hue about to embark on an overnight journey back to Hanoi.  And we thought Hue was cold.  A) the bus was FREEZING B) about an hour before arriving in Hanoi, 5:30 am, the bus driver thought it would be awesome to wake everyone up by turning on the lights and blaring, I mean BLARING, Vietnamese music.  Ohh the agony.

breakfast buffet at the hotel
After being swarmed by a mob of taxi drivers whilst trying to alight (I'm learning English in HK!) we made our way to our amazing hotel that we had booked a week back in anticipation of a fancy NYE in the Old Quarter.  Since it was only 6 in the morning our room wasn't ready, but they let us check in early (with fee) to another room.  Short sleep, breakfast buffet, and then we were asked if we would like to upgrade to one of 3 executive suites the hotel offers for a mere $10 more.  No problem!

The living room
We had our own living room, office, jacuzzi, and balcony overlooking the whole of the Old Quarter!  Perfect.   We spent the day lounging and then found the best Indian food right next door.  I'm talking better than India Indian food.  At this point we were a little Vietnamesed out, so some naan and curry was mucho welcome.

More lounging and meandering and Paul very proudly came across a NYE must; Ukranian sparkling wine.  Despite where it was from, it wasn't totally garbage (like some certain Vietnamese wines I know), although too sweet to drink much of. 

bathrobes, ukrainey sparkles, and One Direction
Post sparkler we head out in the cold (brrr 50s!) to a Korean restaurant for out last meal of 2012.  Not only was the restaurant Korea, but it also boasted outdoor seating above the large cirlce where a NYE performance (talent show) was held.  Asa!  We enjoyed some of our Korean favorites, watched as people balanced on crazy amounts of rolling platforms, juggled fire, and performed other random acts of circusry, and then head back to our suite for a crazy night in watching 2012 best music (apparently One Direction is the only band tha made any music in 2012) drank a couple cocktails, and promptly fell asleep at 1.

We watched the CNN coverage of Times Square with Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.  Who approved that!?  It was painful to watch that crazy lady harrass Anderson; awkward and boring at the same time.  Did you catch that??

Watermelon shakes!
It was an amazing trip; definitely one of our tops!  We feel excited about the new year, excited for the trips to come, and excited about each other.  Good work Vietnam!

6 more sleeps til Japans!