Monday, May 27, 2013


A very important thing to remember when living abroad is to check your visa status.  Perhaps because I was so back and forth (literally to Macau) when unemployed, it did not occur to me that my work visa was up for expiry.  Yup, realized it 7 days past.

Here's how it works in HK.  You're getting close to expiry and you go onto this very easy website, enter your info, and request to make an appointment at your convenience. 

You go over expiry and you are not allowed to make an appointment, you have to go in person.  So I did just that this AM.  Line up at 7am hoping to in early when they open.  Only did I realize at 8:30 when the man came out with a megaphone yelling in Chinese, that there are only a certain amount of people allowed in a day.  I did not make this quota and was told by my new friend 'people get here the night before.'  For real?

Not to believe this, I head down to Wan Chai, the central immigration office where I was told basically the same thing.  She suggested I show up before 6am tomorrow to get a spot.  Awesome, thanks.

Lessons.  It's all about the lessons.

Anyway, cancelled my pho dinner plans and plan on sleeping at 8pm. 

But last night Paul and I had the best little date night.  We've been all about Spain recently and so have been stocking up on our Spanish tapas.  I made some guac (I know it's not Spanish), we opened up some spicy canned sardines, canned clams, and I brought home from work goose terrine and our newest awesome product; cod/prawn stuffed peppers from Spain.  Amazing.  We washed it all down with some Tio Pepe Sherry, and wrapped it up with Bottle Shock.  Have you seen this movie?  Totally cheesy, but perfect for a Monday night with Sherry :)  And I talked to my mom.  Best. Night. Ever.

2 days til China!

Seriously, enough with the rain!

After the last post, I kid you not the day after the last post it rained so hard that HK declared a 'black rain emergency' and we (as a country) were advised to stay indoors.  School was cancelled for the day.  Work was delayed until after 10pm when the Black Rain advisory was lifted.  This kid played tough and braved the waterfall rain and was in the office by 8:30.  Someone's got to hold it down. 

Patrick and I at the Pier Bar

The rain finally subsided late afternoon and everyone else strolled into work.  We've had a T10 and Black Rain in the past year, what's next?

Thursday evening I had another successful (one terrine sold-ha) tasting at the Pier Bar.  We had a nice little crowd, some tasty Cali wines, and of course foie gras and truffles! 

Cheese and foie gras bacon toasts
Friday was fantastic.  I left early for a 3pm Amarone tasting with Amorosso Fine Wines at Stone Nullah Tavern.  My biggest gripe with SNT is the price.  It's way expensive for what it is (read small portions) but when you're at a free event, it's totally amazing.  A beautiful cheese plate, duck liver and home cured bacon toasts, and grilled veg followed by a vertical tasting of Amarone.  2007->2006->2004->1999->1998->1996. I preferred the 1998 and 2004; the sweetest and most concentrated of the bunch.

Through the vintages
After the tasting I met Paul, Laura and Derek for a quick drink at the Globe, where I tried watermelon beer.  Fantastic for summer and really tasting like watermelon and beer.  One was enough.  Post Globe Paul and I head over to Catharine's for her going away party.  Boo!  Catharine always throws amazing rooftop parties, and this was no exception.  Great people, great view, great goodbye.  See you at Christmas, Catharine!  And we stayed out til 2am!

Saturday we had a proper lay in as Sarah would say. 11:30!  Then due to the rain (of course it's raining on Saturday), beach birthday plans diverted to bowling birthday plans.  I was not looking forward to this as my last little bowling round got a bit tedious and I don't believe I ever even broke 60, but things fared differently this go round.  We had a big group, cupcakes, beer tours, Champagne, and I even managed a few strikes here and there.  66, and get this, 94 my second round!!  Paul had a 100 and 98 for the record.

Happy Birthday Matt and Hailey!
Beer, cake, Champers and boys

Then we did what everyone should go on their birthday.  We rolled over to Linguini Fini for a feast.  Bottomless wine, seemingly bottomless food, things got silly around cake time when the birthday boy decided to start throwing things.  In proper LF fashion, all was all right.  No complaints about us.  Just great food, wines, and service.  Meat plate followed by homemade sausage, then caprese salad (to die for!), eggplant parm, super moist chicken, gooey banana chocolate cake and cookies.  Well done!

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

No birthday is complete without a night out to LKF.  So we went.  Jello shots.  Tallboys from 711.  The typical LKF experience.

Welcome to LKF
Sunday, fun productive, tasty delicious day.  After a lovely Korean lunch, we hit the local Starbuck's for a couple of hours with Sherry (me) and grading (not me).  Then off to cook up some cauliflower to bring to an amazing dinner party at Kina's.  They never disappoint, and this was no exception.  It felt like Thanksgiving.  There must have been 15 or so of us including new friends, old friends, and home friends.   And always (always!) a fantastic spread. 

Hailey and figgy toasts!
Duck confit with mash. Fried chicken.  Fennel citus salad.  Quinoa/lentil salad.  Roasted cauliflower (a feat with no oven-ahem).  Brussel sprouts.  Corn salad.    Oh and I can't forget the amazing hors d'oeuvres; fig, ricotta and honey bruschetta, and feta mushroom toasts.  Delish.  All of this followed by homemade cake and massive cookies.
The spread
The desserts
And am totally exhausted in the best possible way today!

Korbin Kameron 2004- amazing!
Oh and did I mention?  I'm off to CHINA!  My first ever client, Andy, asked Sean and I to join him for a wine expo in Guangzhou Thursday through Saturday.  We'll be pouring his wines and chatting amongst his customers to solidify our base in China.  Super pumped to go to China with people who actually know China!  Woot.

Monday, May 20, 2013

HK Hearts Rain

All it's done for the past several months has been to rain.  And be miserable.  And then rain some more.  If it's not 99% humidity, it's because it's raining.  And not like a little bit of rain, like India during monsoon rain.  It wasn't this bad last year!

Other than getting wet, there hasn't been a whole lot going on.  We had a 3 day weekend (thank you, Buddha) so Paul and I did a wee bit of travelling.  Friday we got some studying in and then went over to Jackie and Justin's for a lovely rooftop BBQ.  Luckily no rain!

Then Saturday we got up fairly early, MTRed it to the Macau Ferry Pier in Sheung Wan, and wow is it soooo much easier going to Macau from the Island than it was from Kowloon.  From Kowloon you had to MTR to TST, then walk through the swarms of 20000 mainland tourists, then hope to get the next boat.

From the island you go right up from the MTR to the ferry pier, there's some dude at the top of the escalator selling discount tickets and you walk right in and onto your boat.  Waaaay less people, waaay less hassle.  An hour ferry later and we're in a new country.  Amazing.

First we hit up the Macau Wine Museum.  Since I'm studying Port and Madeira, and since Macau is an ex-Portuguese colony, it seemed only right to make this a scholarly excursion.  The museum itself was pretty small and not too informative (well not at this level, I spose) but had some interesting vines, barrel, and bottles to look at. But the best part was for sure the wine tasting at the end.  For ~$5usd you can taste 6 of the wines; 3 of which were fortified.  They were all of acceptable (not good) quality and it good practice for me to lead Paul in a very formal tasting :)

We then went for lunch and found this cute little place, Escada.   Octopus salad, croquettes, whole sardines, and some cod veggies.  <3 Portuguese food. 

To continue with the studies, I had read that there would be a New Zealand wine tasting at the Galaxy, Macau's newest casino, so we hoofed it all the way to Cotai (South Macau island) only to find out the tasting was the day before.  Whatever.  We walked around the casino, oohing and awing at the ridiculousness, had some milk tea on the floor, and decided to hit the Venetian. 

We quickly lost our $100 each allotment (I didn't realize my first bet was $50- Chinese slot machines!!!), and decided we'd had enough with the casino.  We walked from the Venetian down these super cute cobblestone roads, and found the sweetest little road of amazing little restaurants.  Who knew Macau had so much character!?

Ham and cheese plates served alongside port and wine.  I will never go to the casinos again, these restaurants are way more fun (and probably cheaper!) and have so much personality.  After eating entirely too much, we head home on the 9:30 ferry.  Although barely because most of the ferries had sold out-aye.

Sunday Funday.  We did absolutely nothing.  Nada. Not one thing all day except catch up on shows and bad TV.  It was amazing, and needs not to be repeated for a while.  I hate feeling like you've wasted a day.  I did wake up totally fresh on Monday though....

and now it's raining. 

Monday, May 13, 2013



Fortified tasting

I passed my first WSET exam (unit 2 viticulture and vinification) with distinction, which is the highest you can get.  Woot!  One down 7 to go....
The Pier Bar
I went on to celebrate at Central Pier 3 with a foie gras tasting where no one was too interested in trying foie gras.  Perhaps Tuesday isn't the best day to expect people to be boozing it pierside.  Giving it another shot this Thursday...

Wednesday I got to go to HOFEX!  For the second half of the afternoon at least, and immediately after walking in Greg and I go to a led Austrian tasting.  He has to leave for 'business' but I got to stay all hour and a half (and 15 wines) of it.  Austrian wines aren't my favorite, but they aren't horrible either.  I think a little too $$ for what they are....
There were a bunch of people at HOFEX, but a bunch of us working a small booth, too.  It was fun to go around and see my wine friends, see new vendors, and talk to some of the F&B guys.  I love expos, but man are they exhausting.  Standing on your feet all day, talking all day, and tasting wines all day, is definitely taxing.  The vendor next to us was a Russian vodka company.  I managed to avoid them.
Breakfast beer from NZ!
HOFEX day 4 and I was back in the office.  It pretty much rained and poured all day, and come 4:30 when I needed a van to my event, it poured even harder.  Took forever to get a van and when he finally dropped me off, it was a block from the venue.  Poor me pushing a trolley of wine in heels down the street :) 
The event was the launch of the new pent house suites at the Lanson Place hotel (5 star long term hotel).  I thought it was more of an all night thing, but was only a couple hours which was nice.  We had some really nice wines (Champagne, Pouilly Fuisse, Chateaueneuf du Pape 2003, Brunello di Montalcino 2007, and Echo Lynch Bage 2007) which was exciting for me as I hadn't tried the Brunello or Echo before.   Swank.
Salmon Rillettes
Saturday a tad tired (loved the Echo and Champagne!) and I head to Causeway Bay for a quick study and massage.  Then Paul and I met for an amazing French lunch complete with French 'natural' wines.  Don't get me started, but the lunch was delish.  Then we met Courtney and Patrick for some bayside beers, and called it quits early for we both had to work the next day.
Potatoes n tomatoes n sour cream n homemade bread...
We hit up Taverna del Mar for some tapas, and holy oh my dear love of all things tapas, we decided right there and then when we could realistically move to Spain.  The decision was 5 years.  It will take me 1.5 more to finish my WSET diploma, and figure 3 for the MW.  Paul still needs to find a school (again, don't get me started), apply, and do we're looking at least 5 years.  Then it's anchovies and sherry galore.....


Pork loin, anchovies, Iberico ham, baby eels on cod toasts, and chorizo.  <3 Spain.

Sunday Paul took an English test, turns out he knows it, and I worked the Island East Market where it rained all. day. long. Julia and I had fun anyway, and ended almost selling out. 
IEM in the rain

Quite Monday, quiet Tuesday (both with awesome new track workouts), and tis Wednesday.  Off for the end of season Island East Market hh, followed by NZ wine tasting with Paul and Derek, followed by Thursday which is full of meetings and tastings.  Followed by 3 day weekend.  Happy hump day!

Greg made Julia and I do a tasting with this guy.....

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fortified Wines

Paul and I had a lovely weekend of not working!  Friday night I stayed in doing absolutely nothing but reading wine trade magazines, watching cooking shows on TLC, and sipping on some fortified Greek wine.  Perfect.

Saturday Paul went on a junk and I went to Sai Kung.  I decided to forgo the junk for academic pursuits. I went to Sai Kung to meet up with my WSET level 3 educator (their word, not mine) and to gather some books.  Ian has been such a mentor and incredible source of knowledge, and really a driving motivator to keep up to date on industry trends.  He's totally knowledgeable about wines, knows anyone who's anyone in HK in terms of wine, and knows anyone who's anyone in London in terms on wine!

After studying and asking Ian a million questions, I hit the local wine shops.  Schmidt Vinothek is my local wine shop in Qbay, and they just opened a new outlet in Sai Kung.  I popped in to see if my other favorite wine guys, Kevin, was in, but he wasn't.  Tony was in, and Tony is absolutely fab.  He insisted I try all the open wines they had, and then asked for my autograph for when I become famous.  I love him and I need to start hanging out in Sai Kung more often :)

Then off to Kwun Tong (on my day off no less!) for Gary's warehouse warming.  Gary's another local wine importer.  He's awesome.  Full of smiles, always super helpful and super honest, and to show off his new warehouse he opened one of all of his wines!  Amazing.  Ali, my favorite HK blogger, was there, and eventually Greg and Sean came by. 

Fun little afternoon followed by some visits to my new favorite bars (Stone's in Tai Hang is great!) and I was asleep by the ripe old hour of 10.  I think Paul made it to about 8 post-junk.  ha. 

Sunday we met up with Kina, Kenny's parents, Katie, and Hailey and Matt for some Po Toi lunch.  Po Toi is this almost deserted island that's a 30 minute ferry south of Stanley (which is the southernmost part of HK).  We ran into my friend, wine writer Stephen, at the pier who was going for the same thing; seafood.

This place is amazing.  You sit on little plastic stools and indulge in your favorite fried sea creatures.  The salt and pepper squid is the shit.  Should I not mention shit while talking about food? 

Paul ran into a colleague and we all ran into our friend Mike who leads sailing lessons.  Small little world HK.  Next time we're totally coming back, just eating squid, and bringing a ton of white wine.  Corkage is $30 (~$4usd) which is unheard of and amazing by HK standards.

Monday after work I met with some of my diploma classmates (sans class- what's the word for that?) for a tasting of all things fortified.  Angel was awesome to organize, and she led us through a blind tasting; flights of 2 at a time.  My god I love fortified wines.  No one at the table shared my affinity for Sherry, but I'm still confident that there will be a Sherry revolution in HK this year!  Sales in the UK are up 1% this past quarter and it's driven by Manzanilla and Fino sherries, which are perfect for summer cocktails.  But, ooo, Olorosso or Amontillado alone (no food not sans company, although I guess that would be fine too) on the couch at night are perfection. 

The results of my last test are in, and I have to go pick them up after work (won't tell you over the phone- ugh) then go to Central Pier 3 to do a tasting of our foie gras and truffles.  This also means pier side wine.  Tough times.  Tomorrow and Thursday at HOFEX and Friday I get to host an amazing  wine reception for the launch of these new luxury pent houses for this 5 star long term stay hotel; Lanson Place.  I need a new dress!

This is kind of rambling, but my colleagues are out of the office for the first day of HOFEX, which is an F&B expo, and I don't have much else to do.  I should study.  Or write new tasting notes.  Or probably do a number of other things, but I decided to catch you up on the life of Lauren.  Caught?


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Po Toi

A visual recap of my weekend

New books from Ian, my WSET 3 educator/wine mentor!
Canary Island Wine at Gary's
Gary's 'warehouse warming' in Kwun Tong.  LOVE the new Caliu!

Wedding Wines! xo
What I LOVE (study/live/breathe) right now. Sherry REVOLUTION!

Warhol.  Fancy American beers.  New friends.  Stone's, Tai Hang.
Bird watchers.  I just don't get it.

Quick post lunch hike, Po Toi.

Po Toi.  30 minute ferry south of Stanley
Stanley Plaza
Matt, Hailey, Kenny's Mom and Dad
Po Toi.
Po Toi
Mr. Baccow, Mr and Mrs Baccow

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Post Oysters

The oyster dinner at the Bostonian was lovely.  Nothing mind blowing, but certainly tasty.  And the funniest part for me was that the second wine selection was one that I had the previous day with none other than the winemaker himself from Miguel Torres, Chile!

Saturday Paul joined me on a stroll to visit some customers and then we hit La Feria.  My friend Allison from Amorosso Fine Wines (who also used to be a sommelier in Arlington, VA!), was kind enough to give me two tickets.  Since it was free we didn't have much to lose.  Had we paid the $200 face value (each!) we would have been a touch disappointed.

The event used to be at the Jockey Club, but for whatever reason they moved to Cyberport.  I don't know if I've mentioned Cyberport before, but what a waste of space.  It's supposed to be the tech hub of HK, but instead it's just office space, a movie theatre, a toy store, and that's about it.  They used to have weekend markets once a month which HOFWs always participated in, and they were the worst!  My friend Cathy lives in Cyberport and didn't even know where the market was.  No one knew where the market was.  Luckily it got shut down for noise violations, which is really unfathomable on account of the desolation that is Cyberport.

Anyway, the venue was not suited for this event.  Perhaps for noise reasons, or perhaps not, they held it inside which was ridiculous.  Cyberport is right on the water, has huge potential, but somehow always kills an event.  Hm.
Sherry from the barrel! Amorosso

With your ticket you get one free drink, some lucky draw tickets, and a wine glass (which is nice),  I got a glass of Fino Sherry with mint, and Paul got an Estrella beer, which I would argue is maybe the best beer on draft.  Ever.
Inside Cyberport

I am currently studying fortified wines, and as such have been drinking a pretty substantial number of them.  I am totally hooked on Sherry.  It's amazing, and amazingly underrated.  I've been chatting with some people (Allison's boss) and listening to some podcasts (Guild of Sommeliers) and I think we all agree that Sherry is on the verge of a renaissance.  You heard it here first, kids.  I still have a bottle of Olorosso at home that I am dying to tear open. I just know once I do, the rest of the evening is shot (22%!).   While in KL I had a Sherry cocktail, and Fino Sherry with some mint, perhaps some Sprite if that's your thing, is the perfect refreshment in summer.  And it's ideal with seafood...I could go on....
Paul, Patrick, Laura

Anyway, the event.  Strange as it was, it was a fun way to kill a couple hours.  Word to the wise, don't pregame a night junk with Sherry. It's just not a good idea. We had a great time, but the end of the evening is a tad fuzzy.   We celebrated Katrina's birthday with a Disney firework show from the sea.  (PS Disney, I expected more). 
Happy Birthday, Katrina!

Sunday, we recovered, studied, cooked, and I closed out the Island East Market.  I love that market!

This week is another full on week.  I suppose they all are!  Monday Paul and I went to the Foodie Awards party which hosted anyone who's anyone in the F&B trade in HK.  Tuesday I had wine class with JC, a Master of Wine candidate.  After working out way through 15 or so sweet wines (oh my god it was heaven!), I stayed to chat briefly with him about his MW journey.  He sits for the final exam in June, and I have no doubt he will pass.  He's a great teacher, and I look forward to sitting down with him post MW test to find out more about the process. JC seems to think it's possible to do in just 2 years....
My first Sauternes!!
Wednesday was a holiday!  Yey, Chinese Labour Day!  Again, visited more clients and studied which was perfect because the weather has been shit.  Back to work Thurs followed by an amazing evening of art, music, food, and wine at my friend's gallery Collin's and Kent.  (Not her gallery, but she manages it and hosted the event).  It was superb!

Great event, Alicia (far right)
Tonight I am pouring wines for happy hour at a local Kwun Tong restaurant; I'm sure you've heard me mention because we always host events there; Factory 99.  John, the owner, has agreed to take on our wines for his wine list, and in return I have to promote happy hour.  I've been handing out business cards with HH details, and tonight I shall pour!
I got my ring!!
Paul's on a junk tomorrow, so I have the whole day to study!!!! Asa! <3 wine studies.... <3 wine study tastings :)
And if you haven't heard, there's a large duck in Victoria Harbour