Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Winner Winner Oyster Dinner

Paul and I have won a 7 course wine oyster and wine pairing dinner from  Thank you!! 

STDs (thanks for the acronym mom) are out!  Check the mail!

Here's the menu:
Nice bread selection

A Night of Oyster and Wine Menu

Blue lump crab salad
Lime scented Galway Bay oyster jelly
Domaine Levin Cuvée, Levin Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France
Torres Santa Digna, Sauvignon Blanc, Curico Vally, Chile
Chestnut crusted sea scallops
Champagne oyster nage
Craggy Range, Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, New Zealand
Cloudy Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Butter sautéed corn-fed chicken
Smoky Bay oysters, Pacific prawn, basil-soya glaze
Robert Mondavi, Fume Blanc, Napa Valley, U.S.A.
Totally feel like an ass taking pictures of every course, but I do it for you.  And for when I print my blog some years down the road....

Pan-seared petit Angus beef mignon Coromandel oysters,
buttered wilted spinach, shallot glazed mushrooms, brandy-veal jus
Walnut Block, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
This was totally the best!!
Bitter chocolate layers, maple walnut ice cream, chocolate-vanilla sauce
Forest, The Doctor Sauvignon Blanc "Stelvin Seal", Marlborough, New Zealand

Monday, April 22, 2013

Malaysia, Truly Asia

I realized on the flight over to Malaysia, that I have only spent time away from Paul twice since knowing home.  The first is when Emily and I went to Malaysia (KL and Langkawi), and the second when I went home for Maria's wedding.  Now almost 3 years later I'm leaving for KL and Maria!

We had such a blast!!!!  KL is so much fun, and it's even more fun with your best friends.  I didn't get to Maria's hotel (which was huge and awesome) until after 2am on Friday, but that didn't deter us.  We stayed up chatting and sipping some wine until 4 when we both were so tired we could barely sit up.

Saturday we were up pretty early given our late night, and had a fantastic buffet breakfast before heading out to the Batu Caves.  I had been twice before, but seriously, every time was different.  First time was full of snakes and monkeys, second there were no monkeys to be seen!, and this time, yes lots of monkeys, but kind of walked away with 'this could use a paint job' kind of a feel.  Kind of reminded me of all of the tourist attractions at Paul's favorite resort in Wulai, Taiwan (read: was probably cool 30 years ago). 

Then our driver took us to this cute Batik store where we learned that Batik is a style of painting on fabric.  Catherine played model and Maria and I oohed and awed.  Then we hit up Central Market for shopping, coffee, delicious sweet green stuff, and a new fruit that none of us had ever seen or tried before.  And it wasn't bad. 

Then we retired back to the hotel for a much needed mid-day siesta. Naps followed by snacks in bed and chatting, followed by showers and some bubbley! 

We went out to the BEST Malay dinner.  This was upscale Malaysian dining at its best.  We ordered a bottle of Spanish wine (I think a year past its prime) and the following:

Chicken curry- awesome
Squid ink squid- fantastic but too salty- needed some rice
Coconut rice- blander than expected
Jackfruit coconut salad- this was a huge surprise and success!

Everything was really good and it gave us a good idea of what Malaysia cooking is all about...coconut!  After stuffing ourselves, catching up on all things everything, and enjoying the amazing smells wafting from the kitchen, it was time to move out to meet Maria's friend Prathesh (probably spelled really wrong) from IBM.

We met at this amazing bar in Patronas tower 3, which none of us even knew existed.  Prathesh is from Bangalore but has lived in KL for the past 2 years with his wife, so he knows all of the ins and outs of what's good.  We had fantastic cocktails with a stunning view of the towers, and I was surprised to see a Prosecco that I import into HK is the Prosecco of choice at Marini's 57!  We hit one other bar and then called it a night....

Sunday we think we wandered into the red light district, found some kimchi to snack on, then made our way to Chinatown.  In search of Indian, we moseyed onward, but disappointingly couldn't find anything too appealing.  Lonely Planet led us to Sister's which we were super excited for...until we found out it was closed, so we hit the Indian buffet downstairs and were all pleasantly surprised.

It was so sad to have to say goodbye!  We only just said hello.   But as with all best friends, when we were together it felt like zero time had passed since the last time we saw each other.  Only 8 months til Christmas.

I miss you Maria!!!

PS I have vowed after this trip never ever ever to fly Air Asia again. 





More on that later.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Life Cheese

I am not exaggerating when I say that a wine and cheese pairing just changed my life.  I will never be the same again.

Red bleu cheese- I kid not.  Picked up in Tai Hang today, and I believe to be of English origin.

Stinky French cow's cheese from Monsieur Chatte.

Petite Chablis 2009.

When their powers combine, the Chablis goes from nice and acidic to amaze-balls and almost sweet.  The transformation is incredible! Incredible!!

I always knew food and wine pairings were important (but generally ignore them because I drink wine a) among friends and it doesn't matter about pairing, more about talking b) at home after dinner before bed), but have never found one that totally transformed the wine like this!   I've had ones that don't work; Chateauneuf du Pape 2003 with Indian curry; those that do; Cava and Samosas; but this honestly blew my socks off. It was a totally different wine after that cheese.
Also got some amazing nitrogen frozen ice cream in Tai Hang.  Greek yogurt with granola and blueberries.

This, I believe, is attributable to several factors.  One, the wine is high on the acid.  Sans food this may seem a bit biting.  Two, the cheese is heavy on the salt and may seem...salty.  If ever you want to create a good pairing, match acid and salt.  On top of this the cheese wasn't ultra creamy or delicate, but instead poweful, musty, and just totally rockin with Chablis. 

This was entirely too much on cheese and wine...what else have Lauren and Paul been up to.  Well, I can tell you nothing as spectacular as the last 15 minutes with Chablis and cheese.

Friday night I hosted a wine tasting for 25+ recruiters and their clients at Randstad. Not spending much time thinking or preparing for it as I had my dip test to worry about, I found that the night went suprisingly well.  I got nervous 3 minutes before when I realized I had to talk for the next 2 hours about wine, all of which I know through and through, but in front of 25 or so guillos in their 20s-50s.

Calm before the storm
I think it started off a bit tense with some 'uhhs' and 'umms' but the audience was fantastic, full of questions and answers when I asked, and tons and tons of enthusiasm, so after the first round I was more into it and much more confident.

Custom placemats
We hosted a tasting for Randstad about a year ago, but at the time we had JC to host.  Now it was me!!  We asked Thibaut, a rep of our Burgundy wines, to come and speak a bit too.  He was great and the highlight for me was that a women ching-chinged her glass with a fork at the end of the evening to say in more or less words 'Thank you Lauren for an informative and fun night.  We all learned a lot!'  It was so sweet and I am feeling more and more confident in my presentation skills.  And more importantly, I LOVE sharing my wine knowledge.  I know I know my shit.  And it's so much fun to shed some light on wine things for others. 

It's strange for me to think that my entire life revolves around a beverage.  But I know it's much much more than that.  It's a tradition.  A history.  A passion.  Culture.  Family.  Friends.  Community. Life.  Wine. Is. Awesome. I. Love. My. Job. 

The crowd
Anyway, test on viticulture and vinification followed in the morning.  There are 40 or so people doing the dip with me, and I am definitely the only blondey in there.  A French guy, an Italian guy, a gingery guy, and me and 45 Asians. 

The test was harder than I thought, with a lot more questions about stuff that wasn't in the book.  But it's how they weed out the non-wine-lifers I suppose.  I was the first kid done, thank you.  On the way out I chat with another early finisher who concurred it was more difficult and off book than expected. But what was strange to me is that this guy was a banker!  Just doing this for fun...for now.  Man, everyone in HK thinks they can have a wine company.  Nuts!

Saturday post test was Beertopia!! More on that later....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post Office

If you've ever met me, there's a good chance you've realized I'm not the most patient of people.  I don't like waiting in lines.  I don't like incompetence.  And I certainly don't like people who stand on the left side of the escalator.  For all of these reasons, plus the language barrier, I hate the post office.  Especially in Kwun Tong.  Especially at lunch.

Today is a cold, rainy, and totally miserable day.  I have been summoned by not only the post office, but also the bank to pick up my new card, so I begrudgingly make plans to venture to the island during lunch.

I trudged out in the cold and the wet all the way to Quarry Bay to the post office.  The MTR surprisingly not too packed.  Walking down the sidewalk, even with all of the umbrellas, pales in comparison to the clusterf&(k that is Kwun Tong.

I walk in and no less than 4 employees beckon for my attention from behind their plastic partition.  Say, what!? I quickly hand them my wet package slip and they immediately hand me 2 packages, don't ask for my ID, and tell me to have a wonderful day.

Total time in post office < 1 minute.

I hustle across the street to HSBC prepared for war, walk straight up to the counter (which is upstairs, which is mildly annoying in my sopping wet shoes) hand my letter to the lady with my HKID, and just a couple minutes later I have my very own HSBC card:  McPhate Lauren C.

Total time in HSBC <3 minutes.

Wouldn't it be nice if the bank and post office could always be this pleasant?

PS THANK YOU CHETTA AND RYAN!!!  We can't wait to open and play the game!!

Rain Rain Rain

Here it is 5 days since my last post and it's still grey and miserable.  Meh.  I suppose it's good for studying.  First wine test on Saturday!!
Banchans, dak galbi and haemul soondoobu
So our quiet night of nothing on Friday turned into an excellent night of Korean.  Paul stumbled upon this Korean restaurant just steps from our apartment (but around a corner we never go down), so we decided to check it out.  It was fantastic and had one of our favorites, dak galbi (chicken stirfry), which you never see in restaurants.  It wasn't 100% spot on Korea, but it had good banchans (side dishes), which is always my gage.
Sprouts, celery, potato, kimchi, pumpkin and greens!

Saturday I studied, Paul graded, and then I found my new favorite place; Stone's Tavern in Tai Hang. Tai Hang is this super cute neighborhood full of restaurants, coffee shops, and that's about it.  Stone's came recommended to me by my beer guy Jon, so I followed through and went in for a pint.  Great little restaurant with a fantastic beer selection.  And the owner Joel is great.  He's super chatty and passionate about his restaurant and love of Hong Kong and Tai Hang.
Japanese made, Belgian brewed rose-flavored beer at Stone's

Then Paul and I went to meet Michael for dinner at Linguini Fini's newest institution Stone Nullah Tavern.  It's advertised as an American tapas cum speakeasy.  The cocktail list looked impressive, the wine was nice, the atmosphere was beautiful and could have been in DC or NYC, my man Wahid was there!, but the food...  Ugh.  Over priced.  Small.  And just ok.  I suppose we expected too much.  Linguini Fini/Posto Pubblico kick it's ass. 

This place has been boasting about it's gourmet tater tots with homemade sriacha ketchup all over the media, but there was no potato in our tots. Just fried bits through and through!

Then we got the calamari salad which was nice and citrusy, but was a tough share due to its teeny portion.

The brussel sprouts were amazing, but same problem, teeny tiny.

The foie gras burger came recommended and was even cut into cute little quarters for the 3 of us to share.  Bland.  There was nothing special about it.  Couldn't taste the foie.  And the bread was too big.  Miss.

I will say the highlight for me was def the mac and cheese.  I'm a mac and cheese sucker, and the raw egg yolk mixed onto the steaming hot shells was spot on.  But itsy bitsy and gone in seconds.

Then Wahid hooked up a special surprise which I had been reading about in the local mags; Fat Kid cake.  Base of red velvet cake with a layer of tiramisu, a layer of cheesecake and a layer of creme brulee.  Delish.

We weren't famished walking in, and we certainly weren't full walking out.  It was alright...pretty good, but at the price and expectation level, it fell a little short.  Fun to catch up with Michael though!

Then Paul and I worked the Island East Market on Sunday.  It surprisingly didn't rain, we hit our all time (events without big bosses) high revenue, and were situated right nect to my favorite vendor; the girl with the chocolate chip cookie cheesecake.
IEM from our balcony

And then rain and gloom and studying until Saturday!!

Stopped into my favorite wine shop to chat with Kevin last night and he poured me this...100% Pinot Meunier from Germany!  Never had a red Pinot Meunier (usually a blending grape in Champagne)!!

Coming soon....

Friday, April 5, 2013

It's Friday!!

It's been downpouring for the past week, especially today.  The skies went black at 10am and have remained so ever since.  Bah.

But it's Friday and I have zero plans and love it.  And no plans tomorrow.  LOVE IT.  And then work on Sunday, not so much love, but at least its the Island East Market which is my fav.

So the other day a friend of mine introduced his friend to the HOFWs.  Nick, the friend, works just down the street and was looking for some local wine supplier.  He's sick of paying retail; and who can blame him.  Wines in HK are expensive!

Anyway, he orders some wines and then invites us to come over to his office anytime.  He makes books in China and exports them all over the world.  So today Greg, Julia, and I walk over with 14 bottles of wine and have a field day in his office.  I got some storage boxes, note books, blank cards, a flask, cards and dice, and some books for tutoring.  And we could have gotten tons more, but you know, don't want to look greedy. 

And now I'm off to party in the blackness...Korean or Japanese dinner with Paul!

Monday, April 1, 2013

In Other News

Paul and I had a lovely day frequenting new bars about HK.  We found Ted's Lookout, which had wonderful cocktails, but was also wonderfully over priced, and eventually made our way back home where we found the best thing of all; our own cooking.

I made a pumpkin/coconut curry over cauliflower, beets, and broccoli, and Paul made a tomato spinach cream pasta.

Now we're a glass deep in a Montagny 1er Cru from Kina (Thanks, it's awesome!!!!) and about to start the Game of Thrones.

<3 Public holidays.  Thanks, HK!

Happy Easter, China!

Finally, after more than a year and a half living just minutes from China, Paul and I have crossed the border and made it to the mainland. [disclaimer; we did spend the night in Beijing during a 13 hour layover, but stayed at a random airline hotel and didn't get to see anything]

We got our visas and planned to go for a night or so to Guangzhau or Shenzen.  As luck would have it a Groupon showed up on Thursday that suit our weekend plans.

Paul crossing the river.
For $118 (~$15usd) you can visit the Water House Spa in Shenzen, get a 60 minute foot massage, 90 minute full body massage, enjoy fruits and tea, play billards or ping pong, watch tv, relax, and even spend the night.   We didn't have high expectations that this would all pan out, but we (I) didn't have big expectations for Shenzen in general.  In fact, I was pretty confident the whole place would be a big shit hole.

Luckily, I was wrong.  Shenzen was LOVELY!

We took a quick hour long MTR ride up to the border, walked through customs with very little hassle, borded the Shenzen MTR and were in Shenzen proper.  I expected huge industrial run down shithole, but in fact, it twas lovely.

We were immediately greeted by Dunkin Donuts (at which we bought 2 coffees and a donut for $7usd!), then wandered down the very wide, very new, very commercial streets of Shenzen.  The lovely concierge at the local Sheraton guided us to Coco Plaze and City Walk, two areas with restaurants and shops.  Very commerical, vewry new, very nice.  We settled on a habachi lunch complete with salmon fried rice, sashimi, soft eggs, and grilled beef n onions. 

Seeing as it was pouring rain and we had no plans, we head to our Groupon destination where we braced for a rip off.  Shockingly, the place was gorgeous...and more importantly, clean!  We each went to our designated areas to change into Asian PJs, then head upstairs to the uni-sex area for a foot massage and some TV watching.  There are tons of recliners with personal TVs, self serve fruit bar, billiards, pool, cinema, and I'm sure much more, but seeing as not one person-----I stand corrected, one person did speak English, and he was our personal tranlator for the afternoon.  He arranged our foot massage on our recliner where we enjoyed Chinese tea, watermelon, and The Rock, and then we head upstairs for our full body massage.

Paul loved his full body, ,mine was a bit of a tickle fest. She had tiny little fingers and spent the whole time testing my tickle patience.  I finally freaked out when she went for the inner neck had been killing me (I have bad push up form) and she relaxed it a bit.   Post massage it was only 7pm, and we didn't feel like hanging about to get ripped off for god knows what, and there was only one English channel on TV), so we got our bill.  It was exacltly what they said it would be.  WHAT!?  When does that ever happen!?

See?  Not shitty!
Walked through the rain to the MTR.  Through customs.  1.5 hour MTR ride home. And made it home just in time to get to bed by 9:30.  Asa!  We <3 China.

And given our visa status, we're free to go again in 30 days!