Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Upon our arrival back to Hong Kong, we went back to our roots.  Our Grassroots, if you will.  I have been waiting to go to Grassroots Pantry for months.  Months, months, months, ever since I had their salads at the Island East Market.  And honestly, probably even before.  There aren't too many vegan restaurants that blow through HK, and certainly not so many with the media presence and sustainability of GP. 
Sarah on top of ordering

Allison, Kass, and I got chatting over some (natural wine) drinks the other day and decided it was far beyond time that we get our (mostly) veg butts in there.  And why not drag the men folk along.  And some of our carnivorously inclined friends.

We changed our reservation from 8 to 10, and eventually 12 of us showed up.  Oops, but the ladies and gents at GP were more than amenable.  Paul, Allison, Michael, Kass, Todd, Will, Sarah, Patrick, Courtney, Nina, Kenny, and I all squeezed round the table in anticipation of some mean veg.

Round 1:
 Dehydrated corn nachos with pico de gallo, guac, and hemp seed sour cream  (good)
Nepalese veg and mushroom momo with roasted tomato sauce (a smidge bland compared to reg momos)

Round 2:
Thai veg green curry and brown rice (I've yet to meet a green curry I don't like)
Slow stewed Ratatouille with grilled savoury polenta (Ahhh-mazing.  Loved the veg in this!)
Cold soba with seared organic tofu and tahini miso dressing (loved)
Vietnamese bun chay with honey grilled hedgehog mushrooms, homemade nuoc cham & almond seed dressing (probably my least fav of the mains, but just because the others were so good)
Mixed mushroom linguine with white truffle oil (am still thinking about, and definitely the favorite of the night around the table)

Round 3:
Happy cow dairy free ice cream (mint chocolate, and 2 other flavours I don't remember- all yummy)
Raw calamansi key lime pie (very tart, and would ear it everyday if just for the crust!)

Peggy, the chef, is just as cute and passionate as can be, and was totally helpful in explaining every dish to us, which really added a lot for those less sure.  You could tell she planned every dish down to the little painstaking details, and I'm looking forward to going back to see what news for fall. 

Court, Allison, Michael, Will, Kenny's head, Nina's head, Sarah, and Kass
There were a few at the table who thought some meat would have added to this dishes, but for me it was perfect just how it was, and I think we may even have some new veg converts.

Loved this.
The other BIG highlight of the night was the wine.  La Cabane Chenin Blanc from the Loire.  It was super full of flavor yet easy to drink, and toally natural meaning nothing added or taken away.  No sulphate hangover here.  Although, this in conjunction with the rest of the wine that went round later that night,  it proved not so free the next morning. 

It's pretty rare that somewhere in HK really impresses me in terms of value for money, and this was definitely one of these places! And healthy to boot.  I put GP right up there with Madam Sixty Ate and Sal Curiouso, other recent favs.  Thanks, Peggy!



Monday, July 29, 2013


Nihao, Shanghai.
So Shanghai is in China, and we live in what we hear is the more upmarket China, so the thought of going to mainland brought to mind many things say, spitting, pushing, and general discourtesy, but 'liveable' and 'awesome' surely weren't some of them.  But gee willy, did we love Shanghai. 
<3 airport lounges

We began the trip on a high note.  Recently we decided that we needed to change our credit card (read: HSBC is the devil's bank) to something more lucrative in terms of miles.  So we got an AMEX linked to Cathay miles and one of the many bonuses is lounge access at airports across the world.
No, please leave the bumf in the bindon

The HK lounge is nothing exceptional, but free food with salad bar, and coffee and beer isn't a bad way to start a trip.  We really enjoyed HK airline and their entertainment systems, arrived on time, hit zero immigrations lines or issues, and hopped in the first cab that was right outside.  This is not the China we'd been hearing about.
Thanks, Vanessa!

We arrive 2 hours earlier than expected to Vanessa's, Paul's cousin.  Vanessa has an amazing flat.  A flat that would eat ours and still have room for more.  2 more.  Vanessa also has the cutest little sweat heart dumpster kitten, Lou.  And Vanessa also has the biggest most welcoming and fun personality of anyone I have met in a long time.  She's had an amazing life so far spanning Pittsburgh, Norleans, Ecuador, and now China, and I have no doubt she'll keep doing great things all around the world.
Big wide spaces with a huge lack of people.  Amaze.
Day 1 we managed to get up and out of the house by 2, as we had a bit of a session the night before.  Paul and I ventured down to Yang's dumplings near People's Park.  These deliciously greasy, soupy, meaty, and bready dumplings were the beginning of the end for Paul.  But damn were they good. 
Paul <3s Yang's now....
Afterward, we strolled down toward the park, and went up to the top floor of the Radisson in hopes of views.  Their Window's restaurant boasts panoramic views of the whole city as you sit in a lounge slowly rotating round.  Paul had whiskey sour and I indulged in a 1994 Great Wall Reserve.  For those of you not familiar, Great Wall is a Chinese wine.  China is now the 5th country in terms of land under vine, and 7th in terms of volume of wine produced.  GW is known for their garbage wine, but this honestly wasn't bad.  It was nothing to write home about (wait...) but was not offensive and was quite feminine and elegant considering.
Windows on the Park at the Radisson

China Wine.
Then we braved the 100+ degrees again to walk through the shopping district to the Tourist Tunnel.  Nina had warned/advised that this was totally cheesy but totally worth it, and she was dead on.  This tunnel goes under Huangpu river.  It gets better.  You get into a gondola sort of car (ours was empty, thank you Tuesday travel) and go through a tunnel enshrined in blinking lights.  Lights in circles, dangling lights, and then inflatable scarecrow men join the menagerie.  I don't get it either.  Totally weird and most definitely warranted some sort of  state altering drug before entering.  Next time.

Tourist Tunnel.  A must.

Wonderful tapas + wine set at....Las Tapas in the French Concession

We then made our way through Pudong to the Aquarium, which was great, and back to Yang's dumplings.  Only one order this time, and we got to watch as the dumplings were steamed in copious (copious!) amounts of oil before being pried off their industrial wok and onto your plastic plate.  Delicious.
Guess where!

Later that day, and Paul was feeling none too good from dem dumplins.  I felt fine, but that's probably because I only had 2 and he had 16.  Live and learn.  We eventually made our way over to the French Consession, which is just lovely!  Tree lined streets, cute little apartments, and no one!  Everywhere we went, we were shocked by the lack of people.  This is China, isn't it??  And to top it off we visited (one of 2 times) Boxing Cat Brewery.  It's a Shanghainese brewery that we were first introduced to in HK as it appeared as a guest tap at the Globe.  It was even better in SH and totally made us nostalgic of seasonal beers back home.  Pumpkin beer, anyone?
Tasty Yunnan dinner with Vanessa at Lost Heaven
We had an awesome day 2 with Vanessa exploring Mao's (propganda) house, Jing-an, and the French Concession, and basically sat in awe of how liveable Shanghai is.  Easy and cheap to get around, sunshine!, no English- but with google translate taxis are a breeze, and big big big apartments.  Hmmm. 
Mao's house.  It's MAO'S HOUSE
If you'd had asked me 5 years ago in DC if I'd be living in Asia now, I would have laughed.  If you asked me 2 years ago in Korea if I'd be living in Hong Kong, I probably would have snorted my beer.  If you ask me today where I'll probably live next, I would be inclined to answer Shanghai.  But that's 2-5 years off at the soonest and Spain could well get their nonsense together by then.
Paul <3s Boxing Cat Brewery
So totally awesome 3.5 days in Shanghai getting to know the city, and more importantly more of Paul's family.  It was so fantastic to sit with Vanessa and Paul and hear them hash out old Fiehler stories; the kind of stories you only get from 20+ years of history.  So, thank you Vanessa, thank you thank you thank you!

And did I tell you!?  I have accepted a new job! Marketing and Sales (title tbd?) for Ginsberg + Chan.  G+C is a small (I believe I'm #5) fine wine merchant located in Happy Valley. Hello, island.  The portfolio along with the owners really impressed me, and definitley convinced me that this would be a great place to work, learn, and taste.  Woot.  And a side bonus, the job doesn't start until September 1st, which means summer vacation continues on.

Tomorrow Disney!

Smell ya later, Shanghai











Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why, hello there.

Welcome to 'Excuse me sir, there are fish guts in my wine.'  First of all, many thanks to my friend Kenny for his contribution to this ingenious title.  For those of you unaware, there may be fish guts in your wine.  And some egg, animal bone (in the form of gelatin), along with any number of other things.  Now you know, you're welcome.

This blog will serve as a venue for me to share some of my journey through the WSET diploma and into the world of  fine wines.  Year one of the diploma has so far involved viticulture/vinification, fortified wines, and a closed book case study.  Next up come liquor, sparkling wines, and an open book case study.  Then comes the fun part.  An entire year of still wines of the world, which means tasting, tasting, tasting.  A friend who finished his diploma last year suggested trying nothing short of 2,000 different wines during year 2.  Bring it.
Boozy banana ice cream and bread pudding.  Paul, Quinn and Sylvia

So what have I been drinking lately?  Since delving into the life of leisure, Paul and I have tried our best to explore some of Hong Kong's hottest spots.  Today we celebrate our friend Sylvia's 25th birthday at the Blue Butcher.  BB has been on my hit list for the past year since it's opened, but somehow we never made it; until today.  Both Paul and I acted totally out of character and decided to keep it dry and held down the teatoller quota.   Normally I am all about a boozy brunch, but the just thought of bottomless Prosecco filled my already waffle filled tum.  Post brunch Paul and I hit up Wyndham's newest; Numero 15.  I enjoyed a wonderful Viura from Rioja (Rioja whites are currently my latest craze in wine) and Paul had a tasty mojito.  'My only complaint is the glass,' it was pretty feminine).
Waffles, foie gras, oysters, salads.  Blue Butcher Sunday Brunch
Sweaty on the top of the Mt. Parker trail

Yesterday after a sweaty hike, we met up with Jules and Mike at the Globe for a quick catch up round.  As I've mentioned many times before, the Globe is my favorite place in HK for a drink.  Hands down.  Fantastic beer list, knowledgeable staff and owner, and some pretty decent wines by the glass to boot.  Paul's new favorite beer is Rogue's Brutal IPA on draft.   Wonderfully smooth and perfect for summer.
Pirates.  Laura, Courtney and Paul
Sushi.  Paul, Derek, Kevin, Lauren and Laura
Last week we hit up Honi Honi, HK's premiere tiki bar.  My drink was good, although apparently not too memorable as I have not a clue what it was now, but Paul had 'the best mojito ever.'  If you're in the mood for something tropical, if not girly, hit it up.
BBQ at Jackie's.
Also of note this week was a Lambrusco party hosted by Marco.  Great Lambrusco (is there any other kind?) paired with Italian mozzarella grilled cheeses and Parma ham.  Who doesn't love sparkling red wine??
Tapas n paella with Korea friends Jodie and Nick
And how can I forget, one of the best tastings I have been to in the past months.  New friend Simone hosted a wonderful, wonderful tasting of 'orange wines.'  She brought us a selection of wines from Georgia (the country) and a sweet wine from Cyprus.  The 2 'orange' wines were white indigenous grapes from Georgia that were fermented and aged on their skin, giving them an orange color and strong chalky tannins.  Very unique, and were really tasty later that night with some cheese.  The red wine was the smoothest of the bunch, and proved to improve with air as I finished the bottle 2 days later with Paul.  The sweet was absolutely lip smakingly tasty.  Sweet, yet not cloying, with a high booze content from fortification.  And the coolest part is that it's the 2nd oldest wine still in production today.  Interesting, indeed.
Orange wine notes.
Georgian wine

Paul and I are off to Shanghai tomorrow afternoon for the week, so will hopefully have some fun tales of traveling to share.  Hasta lluego!

Oh, and there was that time I filmed a commercial and had to do a voice over