Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Year of the GoatSheepRam

Kung Hei Fat Choi.

After wrestling off a cold which was no doubt the result of lack of sleep and running, it was time to celebrate Chinese New Year.  Friday afternoon started with an antipasto free flow buffet at Linguini Fini with Sylvia and John and was followed by a free flow junk and seafood smorgasbord with Brian and Allison and new friends.  Since calling it quits at 9pm it not an option, the party continued in Sheung Wan.

Today hurts.

Seafood on Lamma

Best seat in the house.

Hi Brian

I thought a walk up to the Peak would help.  It didn't.  I thought a glass of wine would help.  It didn't.  Turns out the only thing to help a raging hangover is copious amounts of more alcohol, which luckily, Katie was kind enough to bestow upon me.

Katie has a stunning apartment on the Peak and has just found out that she's being relocated to London.  As such she's made a deal with herself to go out  every night of her remaining Hong Kong tenure.  It's so sad to see her go (pour one out) but will be fun to see what kind of trouble we can get into before she goes.

On a semi-related note, I have just signed up for my first trail run. It's only 13k so let's hope it works out better than my most recent race.  Thanks for that Cambodia.

This is a massive week.  Actually it's a massive month ahead.  I am totally stacked with work events including my first corporate tasting this Tuesday.  We have 12 or so lawyers and their clients coming in to listen to me speak about wine.  I want to take this year to hone my presenting and speaking skills as its a) an important life skill but also b) hugely imperative for the MW program.   The knowledge is there now it's just a matter of being engaging and hopefully entertaining.  Any advice is more than welcome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Valentine's and Such

Last Thursday Tor came into Ginsberg+Chan to present his premium Napa (Oakville) wines.  Gotta love when winemakers stop in mid-afternoon for a tasting.

Round.  They were all super supple, full, and luscious.  The wines had all been open since Tuesday which may account for some of the softening, but still they were quite velvety, a quality which Tor says he wants the wines to have as soon as they get bottled.
The 2013 Chard was ultra creamy and vibrant- filled with tropical fruit, orange blossoms, cedar and a slightly bitter finish.  Tor mentioned that this was his very mineral expression and I'm beginning to wonder if my idea of minerality differs from everyone else...  It was interesting to note that he lets the wine undergo MLF so that he doesn't have to filter it before bottling.  Interesting indeed. 

Then we tried 3 different 2012 Cabs; one a blend of vineyards in Yontville (crushed flowers- very pretty), and the other two from single vineyards.  The Tierra Rioja was my favorite for its rich sweet fruit (the To Kalon was more black stewed fruit).

Definitely Cali in style and I look forward to visiting in March to try some older vintages. 

 1990 Dom, 1976 Leroy Beaune 1er Cru, Penthouse dessert platter complete with poprock tofu, nitrogen frozen ice cream, and the best eggy custard thing I've ever had.  Thursday.

 Valentine's day at Casa Andy means 1974 Barolo, which was drinking absolutely on point with tons of mushroom and balsamic, and the most tender deliciously seasoned Chateaubriand ever.
And then the coup d'etate that erased any memory of anything other than over the top decadent 4 cheese mac and cheese.  Mac and cheese.  Mac. and. CHEESE.
 More cheese.  And weird marshmellowy desserts.

Sunday morning I went for my first run in weeks despite the grab-a-handful-out-of-the-sky pollution.  Like most things, it felt good at the time but now I'm paying for it with a face full of pimples and an unshakable hack.  Thank you, Hong Kong, or should I say China?
Post run met up with Kenny, who is in town on business, and the rest of the crew for quite possibly the best dim sum I've ever had.  Fu Lum (I think) in Sheung Wan is a secret (to me?) treasure.  

 As we rolled out of brunch we debated what to do next until we saw a sign that decided it for us- 'Free Drinks 1-3pm'.  This was the grand opening of a restaurant that Paul, Julia and I had lunch at well over a year ago.  Who's to argue?

 Followed by more drinks with Doug & Jake at Posto Pubblico where people fluttered in and out.  Except the three of us.
 And more drinks at Ho Lee Fook.
 This is my third time there in the past few months and man is it good.  Solid Asian inspired food including the umami laden shrimp toast above.
 Tuesday am I decided to try my hand at doing my laundry which I haven't done in months, Louise does it, and I'm now fully convinced that this is the way is should be.   My wine fridge is so large that it precludes me from carrying my laundry basket past it, so in bit of a sideways shuffle I made my way by, out the door, and onto the roof to do laundry.  Because really, where else?  Then followed it with a solid 8k run.  Thank you.

Came home and my door was locked.  The door has a key pad, so no keys necessary.  The handle of the door should never/has never been locked.   Somehow in my laundry shuffle I must have jimmy-ed that lock shut because I was locked out.  45% phone battery.  8:30 am.  In shorts and a tank.

About an hour later my new best friend, pictured above, showed up. We originally met last week while he was fixing the hot water heater.  I went 2 weeks without hot water.  So far this new apartment is working out great...really though it is. Photos coming soon.

This week I enjoyed his company much more as he took his hammer to the door handle and managed to bash it off in 10 minutes flat.  While he installed a new less faulty door handle I showered and tried to bribe him with Alison (pictured below)'s leftover beer.  Still no takers on the San Miguel.  If you know anyone that'll drink this crap, please send them by.

Chinese New Year begins on Thursday so I need to clear my home of crap, my head of hair, and spend more time in the northern reaches of my apartment.  And find stools for my roof.  3 tables 0 chairs...big week ahead. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Champagne Wednesday

Another wine soaked week, albeit certainly less so than last.  With my bum toe I'm learning the art of relaxing.  Monday I came home from work and wrote my blog and read a book.  When's the last time you sat down and just read?  It was nice.

my new 25 minute walk home from work
Tuesday was slammed with preparing for events (if you're in HK come to Burgers & Bordeaux March 4th) with a mid-afternoon pause to go judge some wines.  This is my second time judging for the Chine Wine & Spirits Awards and it's a total blast.

You're assigned a table and have a bunch of wines wrapped up in front of you.  You taste, and spit, and give a rating of 1-5 on various aspects like color (I don't get this at all), genuineness (again, what does this mean?), quality of aromas and flavors, value for money and then make some wine pairing matches with various Chinese dishes.  

I find it incredibly difficult to judge wines as it seems rather cruel to rate them low, especially based on very vague criteria, so I tend to go pretty neutral with a solid 3.  The best part of this exercise is trying to work out what you think each wine was. 

For the whites some were very obvious, New World Sauv Blanc and overly oaked Chards, although there were some really nice ones too, to some more obscure Italian varietals.  Overall it was a much better showing than last year and it was fun to collaborate with my table over which wines were totally ick and which were standouts, and there were quite a few. 

Tuesday evening found me at the Foreign Correspondents Club for the first time. I almost went once for a going away party but couldn't figure out which bar within the club the party was at so left.  This time fared better as I met my date at the door and he guided  This is now my 5th or so date from Tinder and I don't really understand why it gets so much slack.  I've met nothing but really nice interesting people.  Like really nice people.  And while there probably won't be another date, it was still a nice night out with a new friend.  

 Champagne Wednesday!  The weekly wine tasting at work this week centred around vintage Champagne, many of which are from the highly lauded 2002 vintage.

2002 Pommery Cuvee Louise- super elegant, delicate, and although not my preferred style, it was delicious. (60% Chard, 40% Pinot)

2002 Gosset Celebris Brut- a more masculine (50% Chard, 50% Pinot) and powerful style.

2002 "B" by Boerl & Kroff - the second champagne from the most expensive champagne in the world, this was outstanding and maybe the best champagne I have ever had.  Super complex, youthful, but so interesting. We decanted this:
 Toffee, vanilla, apples and pears, and citrus, but with seamless integration and it just kept changing.  Pre-decanting it was like a rollercoaster, afterward it became a little less up and down but still continued to evolve.  Now I need to find me their first wine (only bottled in magnums in the best of years ~$50,000/mag)

1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaires.  This is always one of my favorite champagnes as it was one of the first I had that made me stop and say holy delicious champagne is great.  This also has quite a bit of oxidation character which I love.  1995 wasn't a widely declared vintage, but among those who did this is supposedly the best.

1997 Salon de Mesnil- I had high expectations here and was pretty let down.  It was totally tight and definitely would have benefited from a couple of hours in the decanter.  Unfortunately when we got these in we got them at the best price in HK and they promptly sold out.  Not likely to try it again for a while...

And we finished with a lovely 2004 Bollinger Grand Anee Rose.  It was very pale pink and had really restrained notes of berries, iodine, and minerality.  I loved it but found it to be a polarizing wine among others in the group

And my cheese man Julien hooked it up again.  I send him a list of wines and he does the pairings for me and they're always spot on.  I can't speak highly enough of the selection at Classified.  Give Julien a visit.  

Afterward I met up with Neil and Andy for some Sai Ying Pun action.  We met at 10 or so and it was incredibly difficult to find something still open.  It's much more neighborhood-y and residential over here than even Sheung Wan, and as such the restaurants close for noise reasons.

We stumbled into an Italian bistro and sat outside on a secret semi-outdoor patio.    We had an interesting although not great bottle of Montepulciano/Sangiovese from the Marche, some duck parppardelle and beef cheek and head out to hit the town.  Unfortunately by 11:30 town this side of the island is closed so we retired on our own merry little ways.

It's always funny to go out with Neil and Andy to get their perspective on life and the world.  They're both self employed, one American one British, not married although both in relationships, and together are similar to a married couple themselves.  And the best thing about them, a thing that many many people in HK lack, is that when they say they're going to do something or go somewhere- they actually do it.  Nina and Kenny used to be my reliable friends, now it's Andy and Neil.  
Doesn't Maria make the cutest babies?
 Anyway, I'm into the new hood. There is definitely a sense of community here.  There's one main street, High Street, where you can find everything from Thai to Korean to Indian, Pizza, Pubs, and more.  And then cute side streets with flower shops and cafes, and also a lot of pedestrian or low traffic streets where people are just soaking it in. There's great integration between locals and ex-pats, more so than I have felt anywhere else.  

I saw this teeny tiny 300 year old woman walking down the street Sunday am.  This much younger, although probably 70, year old man stopped and greeted her, but by holding her hands and looking her in the eye and giving a big smile.  It was a very sweet and tender moment between 2 people who had probably known each other their whole lives.  Next time I'm running at cursing at the slow old people (in my head) I'm going to think back to this.

Time to shower in my new hot (for about 5 minutes) water and get to work.  Lots to do at work and then off to meet the ladies for a bite...ciao.

Monday, February 9, 2015

New Toe for a New Year

The best way to end a Sunday night

It's been a few weeks.  But now that I'm debilitated (you'll see) I have some time to catch up on this beast. Here we go.
Goodbye Square House
It's been a bit of a few weeks.  First I moved.  Moving sucks even when you hire people to do it for you and especially when you're new flat is half the size of the old one.  This isn't a complaint, my new apartment is charming, but logistically it's a bit of a nightmare when there is just no space. In the midst of moving I decided to have (was thrown in?) one of the busiest weeks I've had in a long time both work and socially.  It's a fine line anyway. 

The night before moving, after my helper and her body builder friends helped to packed up my apartment, I hit the town for some incredible wine and food.  

Started off with a bottle at Aberdeen Street Social.  As much as their cocktails frustrate me for their diminutive stature, they have a decent wine list.  

 Then over to meet up with the rest of the group for some Italian Korean fusion at Moyo, a newly opened restaurant on Aberdeen Street.  It sounds like it shouldn't work but it was brilliant.  Perhaps it was the first bottle of wine sinking in, or maybe just the good company, but everything worked. 

Italian, Korean French fries? Also traditional dishes like bossam, sundubu, pajeon.   And some not traditional like kimchi bruscetta and tteokkbokki carbonara.  
It was especially lovely as we got the VIP treatment with "service-uh" throughout the entire meal.  I will definitely be going back. 

 Sunday was moving day. 
Instead of unpacking Alison and Nicole came over to help me with some wine.  The Clau de Nell from one of Burgundy's big names is a great choice from the Loire.  Value.  

I didn't drink these but isn't it interesting to note the different labels from the same wine.  1993 Dom Perignon Oenotheque.  Both came through Japan as evidenced by back labels, but they must have been released at different times.  I guess when you producer 2 million plus bottles a year you can experiment with labeling. 

Italian Wednesday Session
Wednesday I led an Italian tasting of the wines of Castello di Ama at work.  The wines were all stunning.  I shouldn't say I was surprised, but I was. I don't have much experience drinking Chianti and these single vineyard expressions from 2006 and 2007 were a testament to how interesting and terroir and vintage driven Sangiovese can be.  The 2 single vineyards, Casucci and Bellavista, were different blends, one with Merlot the other Malvasia Nera, and both just really delicious, youthful, and indicative of how age worthy Chianti is. 

 Thursday was the Burgundy "En Primeur" tasting at Crown Wine Cellars.  The above is a picture of me creeping on Sebastian Cathiard.  Although (I think) I held it together, I felt like I was a 12 year old girl at a 1d concert (which incidentally I will be March 11th).  Several superstars of Burgundy were on hand pouring their most recent vintage and explaining why it was such a tough one.  Extremely low yields meant nothing for quality as all of the wines tasted were concentrated with real class.

Not pictured Hudelot Noellet, Fourrier, Duroche, Bernard Moreau among others.
 Afterward a group of us decided to go to Le Port Parfume for what was one of the best chickens I have ever had.  Better roasted chicken over butter poaches potatoes, peas, and carrots.  Ohhlala.  Those who store at Crown brought along some of their treasures.  Rioja above.  Savennieres below. And a Bonnes Mares Grand Cru from Jadot as well.
 As I'm typing this I realize I am mixing my weeks up.  Cannot be bothered to adjust, so just bear with me.

  Thursday, of what really was this week, Eric of Falcon Vitners brought along 7 Nicolas Potel wines and 14 Brunellos from 1990 and invited along other members of the trade for what was truly an epic tasting.  The Brunellos were wrapped up in foil and passed around in flights of 2 as we made out notes and comments.  If you have to be a nerd about something, why not wine?

The wines, pretty much all with the exception of one, showed beautifully.  Many pushing into their last few years while many more yet were still quite youthful and vibrant.  The overall favorite for Carbaoni and what was interesting to note was how close everyone's scores were to each other. Wine trade unit. 

Obviously that wasn't enough (we were spitting) so off to dinner we went to Yung Kee, each with a bottle in hand.   2011 Pierre Yves Colin Morey Baudines, 2008 Michel Ganoux Corton Renardes, 2006 La Gravette de Certan, 1999 Chave Hermitage Blanc (yum!), 2006 Soldera, 1992 Grace Family Vineyard (super lovely), 2005 Chateau Musar, 2000 Salvioni and a couple more Italians I'm struggling to read my notes on.
And finally wrapped the night up with a Faiveley at Neighborhood which was totally unnecessary but tasty nonetheless.  


The very next day there was yet another wine dinner with several repeat guests from the night before.  This was casual hotpot at Megan's Kitchen which although good, couldn't hold a candle to Chao's hot pot (not pictured Monday night's outing).  There were some incredible wines, my favorite came from Anne, pictured above, from Bulgaria for its quality, concentration and wow factor.  But also some nice Champagne from Villmat & the guys behind Cos d'Estournel.  Puligny Montrachet.  Donnhoff.  Chateau Poujeaux 1996 which was great, and on and on and on... 

Saturday marked Ginsberg+Chan's PORT INVASION.  We opened up 10 or so Ports, had 200+ around the office for sale and had a day of it.  It was great and the Ports which spanned 1937-1994, all showed wonderfully.  What was surprising was the super interest in the white ports.  Easy, delicious and great with an ice cube, what more could you ask?  And the cheese.  Classified, Julien specifically, has proven to be the cheese authority in Hong Kong.  I can send him any list of wines and he sends me an equally beautiful list of cheese.  The Valancay brought a tear to my eye...

Saturday night took a turn that I did not see coming and since then I have constructed a theory to make myself feel better about the whole thing.  Before Chinese New Year you are supposed to cut your hair (never during or you would mess up the good luck) for prosperity, sweep your house of excess, and generally purge yourself from the unnecessary stuff we fill our lives with for a fresh start of luck and greatness in the year to come.

Not saying my toe is unnecessary, but as I was unpacking my apartment Saturday night I brushed that baby across what I can only guess was my metal luggage tag.  Let me preface this with the fact that I had called to make a pedicure appointment just minutes before but they were full and I would have to go tomorrow. Go figure.

Metal > toe.

Lauren = back in the hospital.  This is now the 4th time in 3 months.  Tooth.  Dysentery x 2.  Toe.

There is no shortage of drama in the 852
This is a humbling lesson in which I should take away that in order for a successful year to come I need to shed some things of the year past.  Shed a tooth.  Shed, well, everything.  And shed some toe.

Shed-ed.  Now bring it Goat. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hi Blog, I'm Back.

New Year's resolution: blog again.

Instead of catching up on the past ~10 months sans blog, how about I catch you up on the past week starting with yesterday.

Saturday started with a lovely hike with Neil up to the Peak where we stopped in for a chat with Katie.  What weather we're having! Then we scurried down Old Peak Road so I could meet Alicia and Raquel for an Italian wine lunch.

Me, Alicia, Raquel
The lunch was organized by Fabio, second in on the left below, who is trying to launch his wine business here.  He's Italian and works in lighting and has over the past couple of years decided to bring some wines into Hong Kong.  As you do when you're Italian.  Over the course of lunch we sampled 7 or so wines: 

2 sparkling- easy and pleasing and interestingly made with Pinot Noir and Lambrusco
2 Gavis- fresh and super pleasant
1 Petite Verdot from Tuscany, which is an oddity in itself- commercial and quite chemically
1 100% Sangiovese from Tuscany that was just lovely.  Filled with chocolate and fruit and well integrated oak
and we finished off with a Moscato d'Asti.  Hard to go wrong there. 

And quite possibly the best tiramisu ever.


Earlier that same week I hosted an even at work for the Femmes du Vin.  We had 20 or so women come to G+C for a tasting of 11 lovely wines.   We started with 2 Champagnes from Gosset- stunning value!- and then 3 Burg whites.  The Ramonet Puligny Montrachet was absolutely stunning.

Then served 6 Pinots from around the globe blind.  The ladies had to work out which Pinot was which.  It proved difficult and surprisingly, the favorite Pinot was from Stoller in Oregon. 

How great is my office?

The day before I hosted a tasting of 2012s from Roulot- outstanding- Liger Belaire- outstanding- and Dujac- super outstanding.

I have most definitely found my calling.

I started running again.  After the whole collapsing with dysentery during a half marathon thing I was a little put off.  I was also quite busy studying so it took a backseat, but then this week, with this amazing 20+ degree weather, got me back out. 

Look at it!  We've also had some of the highest pollution this week.  Yick.

This has me laughing for hours. 

Simone hosted Jean and I for an Alsace tasting.  <3 Pinot Gris and my Monday night tasting group. 

And Todd came for a visit/13 hour layover

Todd and his girlfriend Kass were here for ~ 1 year and then moved to London for 6 months.  They were supposed to come back to HK at the end of it but ended up getting transferred to Melbourne instead.  Hong Kong living...everyone leaves...

I met my new friend Charles for lunch.  I suggested we get Chinese and he suggested we get snake.  Not bad la.  The mushroom and chicken dominate in flavor and the snake bits kind of blend into the texture of the chicken shreds.  It's supposed to keep you warm.

When Charles asked the 200 year old lady working the cash register of her family business what she thought about the snake, she replied that she had never tried it because she was scared.  

Last week we did a tasting of 1995 & 2005 Burgundy.  The 1995 Chablis from Ravenau was a revelation.  Super aromatic with tons of different aromas including Sherry, baked apples, caramel, and honey.  I had never had a Chablis that old and was impressed by its age ability.  It was a 1er cre from arguably the best producer in Chablis.  Yum.

So that's what's been happening here.

In other news, I'm moving!  I've been in my Sheung Wan apartment just over a year now and it's time to move on.  Not to bigger and better, but smaller and cheaper. It's a studio with, wait for oven!  Trust me, this is unheard of for a studio.  There's also a roof deck and it's a walk up, all of which are amazing things.  And it's above a gin bar.  This could get dangerous.  

I'm off for a hike with some friends and then to Simone's for some cheese and Vin Jaune.  More posts coming soon.