Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dinner with Jon

Cass, Jon, me, squid ink n seafood pasta, butt ton of wines
Friday evening my friend Jon, formally of Cru magazine, organized a dinner of some likeminded wine people with the hopes of creating new bonds over delicious tipples.  Well done, Jon, well done indeed.  Everyone was really great from various backgrounds (Taiwan, Hong Kong, English, Germany, USA) and everyone was super into their wine.  Wine dinners are the best, aren't they?
Sophie, Ingrid, Cass, Paul, Jon, and Lorentz
Jon's favorite neighborhood haunt is Ausone, a French bistro in the heart of Happy Valley.  This place was amazing! Not only is the set dinner menu fairly extensive and reasonable, but they don't charge corkage! An utter rarity in Hong Kong.  We began with my selection, Billaud Simon 2007 1er Cru Chablis.  I love this wine! Twas nutty and had the perfect acidity to go with my first course of mussels.  When I say "pair" I use the term loosely.  It was basically a free for all. 
Next up was the best soup I have ever had.  It was an oyster cream soup covered in a buttery puff pastry.  To die for.  Jon paired this course with a Sicilian white from Gary.  Next up was a spectacular Spatburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Lorentz.  It was so soft and full of fruit, and was just a total treat.  Lorentz was raised in German and knows his German wines.  Then Jon popped open the big boy; Gaja Super Tuscan.  This was in my honor as knew I had never had a Gaja red before.  And it was a total beauty.
I also brought a natural wine from the South of France, Clos des Camuzeilles.  I love this wine as it's totally funky and different than your everyday red.  Cass brought one of her amazing Lebanese wines; Les Terroirs 2011 from Wardy's in the Bekaa Valley.   It was awesome and definitely not something you get to try everyday.

Then we finished the evening with a lovely Cream Sherry and Tokaj 5 Puttunyos with chocolate and cheesecakes.  Amaze.  Absolutely loved everyone at the table, and definitely need some more of Jackie, Jon's sister, in my life.  She's a riot. 
Lolita and me
Paul and I are taking on G+C's weekend helper, Lolita, and we caught up on Saturday at my work tasting.  She is so sweet and so helpful and I'm so excited that we were able to help her out by sponsoring her visa.  Isn't she the sweetest!?
We started the tasting with 4 Chablis from Billaud Simon (same as I brought to dinner the night before).  2010, 2008, 2007 1er Cru, and 2010 1er Cru.  I love Chablis.  My last meal would certainly involve in it somewhere some Chablis (or maybe Meursault or Montrachet) and mac and cheese.  And more mac and cheese and more Chardonnay....
We had a good turn out of 15 or so people, and I ever made a new best friend who I made promise to invite me over for wine sometime.  He hasn't yet....yet..For the reds we served Michel Gaunoux, three from Pommard and one Corton Grand Cru.  They were lovely, and surprisingly, my favorite was the 2008.  It opened up beautifully and was perfectly ready to drink now.  Ohhh how my palate is evolving. 
Then twas time for some bowling.  I think I've bowled more in the past two years that in my entire life combined.  I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but SCAA is sweet and let's you bring in your own wine.  No complaints here.  It was Patrick's birthday last week, so really there was no other way to celebrate than with rad shoes, balls, and beers. 
See rad shoes.  Thanks, Nina!
Laura and Court
We finished up several round of bowling (the men folk are much faster than us chatty ladies) and head to the pub for a couple more brews. Clock struck mid-night and we called it a night.
check out those cookie covered cheesecakes in the front
Sunday I got up and went for a long run.  13k!  My longest yet this season, and it felt good.  But my god does it make me hungry.  Luckily I came home showered and the market was going!  This was their one year anniversary and it was awesome.
Have I mentioned how much I love the Island East Market??  It's a seriously amazing market and it's just getting better as the word spreads.  Above, Jomb, is my absolute favorite.  She is such a doll and makes these heavenly and unbelievably delectable treats.  My favorite will always be the cheesecake with cookie on top, but today I also had a delicious and crunchy lemon poppy seed muffin, and a bite of peanut butter brownie.  Hoooly heaven.  <3 Jomb and I can't wait til she's back in November.
Stocked up on some Hungarian wine (thanks Csilla and Nora) feasted on some of Paul's amazing chicken stovetop lasagna (kicked my lasagna's ass) and pretended to write my wine paper.  Seriously, anyone on the global increase in wine consumption?? 
DID YOU KNOW? 100 million Americans drink wine.   11 million of them daily.  Crazy.
Off to Indian with a Hungarian red and Paul's matching red eye.  What this kid does in his sleep no one will ever know.  Ta!

Friday, September 27, 2013


Usagi blew in and out without much of anyone noticing.  The T8 signal was called off right before 10am which means this kid had to go into work.  Paul, however, lucked out with a day off! 
Post work Paul and Vanessa came and joined Simone and I for a private Japanese wine tasting. I met this guy James at a beer event a few weeks back where he told me he imported Japanese wines and sake.  I'd emailed back and forth and he invited me in for a tasting with his partner Kevin.  I invited Simone who incidentally knew Kevin and had been sourcing wines from him. Georgian wines.  It's a small little Hong Kong world we live in.
These guys import wines from let's say less conventional places.  The Japanese wines were all quite lovely.  Koshu is the local white variety.  Simple, light, and really perfect for sushi.  Then we tried Muscat Baily A, a hybrid, three ways.  1. Rose 2. Red wine 3. Fortified wine.  Super interesting to see how multifarious this grape can be.  Especially because it's a hybrid.
Then we went to Brickhouse, the cool taco place in town, for some tasty yet stupidly expensive tacos.   I miss big cheap Mexican.  Then back to real life on Tuesday.  Vanessa managed to get a flight, and also a cold.  Sorry, we hope you're feeling better!!! xo
Tuesday at work and Mandy and I went out to meet this chef and owner of Umami Concepts, this really hip "culinary management firm."  They are definitley not a private kitchen.  They will cook you dinner.  But it's definitely not a private kitchen....we're arranging some dinners over the next few months for some of our VIP customers.  The chef, Nolan, is clearly super passionate and talented.  This guy must be 30 and had already been the head chef for the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, which is a big deal. 
Anyway, back to the office and Jay and Jerry had opened some samples.  These (above) were some pretty run of the mill Tuscans.  We had a Chardonnay that was painful, read over ripe, over oaked, and over after one sip.  Then a Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva x 2, and a Vin Santo.  It's funny how much my palate has changed in just the few months with Gingberg + Chan.  I definitley tend toward the more restrained and complex. Fruit bombs, or even just simple wines seem like waste of time.  Perhaps this is why I like fortified wine so much.  You know it'll be good and at least a little complex with any kind of age on it.  
We all had a good laugh at these commercial wines, and then opened something interesting to wash our mouths out...ha ha what snobs we are.
This was a super interesting Pinot Nero from Alto Adige, Northern Italy.  In the glass it looked orange/brown, and on the nose smelled totally oxidised.  But on the palate it was wonderful.  Really interesting with layers of nuttiness.  What else can look old, smell old, and then taste totally unexpected?  Wine is so cool. 
Wednesday after work I hit up Wine Luxe's panel tasting.  Each issue this free local wine magazine has a professional and public tasting review of a set of wines.  October's theme is fortified wines.
Thomas debating which jug to try next.
I was invited to come taste as one of the 'public.'  You go down the line blind tasting the wines, then give them a score.  In reality it was super windy, people are busy chatting, and you're not too concerned with the wines because none of them were very good. 
There was a 10 year tawny port that was clearly the best of the bunch, but what really intrigued me was this guy above.  Ginger wine!  It was straight up like drinking ginger candy.  Strange indeed, and I was told this is a very Chinese kind of thing.  I was one of like 4 guillos there, and definitley one of like 2 people that was actually scoring the wines.  I now have zero faith in the panel tasting scores...
The noodles are underneath and cook in the sauce
Then I went home and made skillet lasagana.  Much faster than reg lasagna, and twas pretty tasty too. 
Wednesday night was Sherry night!  Mandy, Jay and I went to WSET's Sherry tasting led by Mr. Selena of the Consejo Regulador.  This master class was amazing and I so wish that I had it before my fortified wine test last June.  Selena was super knowledgable about all facets of Sherry, conveyed it in a really clear concise manner, and then we got to try 3 dry and 3 sweet Sherries.  Fino, Amontillo (my fav), Olorroso for the dry.  And then a Medium Cream, a Cream (Harvey's Bristol which is making a comeback), and a super luscious and delicious PX from Valdespino. 
I LOVE Sherry.  There seriously is no better drink anywhere in the world.  If you don't love Sherry, go out and buy a bottle of dry Olorroso, or better yet Palo Cortado, and sit and marinate with it for several hours.  Then tell me this isn't the most interesting and dynamic wine out there.  My god it's good. 
 Thursday was wine fair day.  First I hit up the Alsace Fair where 20 or so importers showed off their Alsatian best.  Sino Vantage definitely had the best selection that I tried, and I especially enjoyed their Pinot Gris. 

I could drink Cremant d'Alsace and Pinot Gris all day long.  It was good to see so many wine buddies in one place, and I am continually meeting people who are super impressed by my new wine list.  Thank you G+C.
Then over to the Spanish fair with Jon and Bill where we met Simone.  It was weird, the Spanish fair was dead during the trade portion. We were like 3 of 5 people there.  It's weird because it was fantastic.  There was sIberco ham, Manchengo, Sherry, paella (which was really a mushroom risotto- good nonetheless), Rioja/other Spanish wines, and even some Brandy.  Twas lovely indeed.

My buddy Gary

It was nice as we had total free reign of the place.  Some snacks and some wine later and twas time to call it a night.
Cheese and ham
And the party continued Friday.  I'm telling you, wine season is upon us.  

Friday afternoon was Ms. Julia's (previously of HOFWs) event with Telford.  It was a tasting of their wines and also a Master Class and luncheon with James Halliday, who is the most famous wine critic in Australia.  The tasting was great, my personal favorites hailing from Chile and Italy, and the networking even better.

Couldn't stay too late as I had a wine dinner to attend....more on that next time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Super Typhoon

Happy typhoon Usagi!  This is our third or so typhoon this year, but apparently the worst storm on the planet earth this year (as quoted by CNN).  Great.  Hong Kong doesn't seem to have any major problems with typhoons, a few blown down branches and limited flooding in the New Territories, but outside that we just get off work and stay inside drinking wine.  Oh but the poor Philippines and little islands to the East. They're getting dumped on!  And now a quick catch up as I am weeks behind.

Last Saturday I hosted my first tasting with Ginsberg + Chan.  We had ~10 or so people come in between 1 and 4 pm to try one of our 'inexpensive' 'everyday' wines.  This cracks me up because they were all $190-$800.   Ahhh one day $800 will be a Tuesday night day when we hit the lottery.  Anyway, it was really great for me to try some of these wines and good to show off my new work digs to friends Nina and Jon.  My favs of the day were the La Dame de Montrose (second wine from Chateau Montrose), a really funky natural wine (Clos des Camuzeilles) from the South of France, and the Brunello di Montalcino. 

But the best part was....

Taking all of the leftover to Derek and Laura's (10 bottles!) for wine tasting part 2.  The perks of having a wine friend.  We rather quickly ran through the wines and then head over to Tapaella Grill for a tapas dinner.  I won an online contest (" who would you take to dinner?"  "my friend Laura because she won a ski house in Niseko and brought me." Thank you HK Mag!) for a $500 gift voucher.  The tapas were alright, nothing really to write home about, but I did enjoy the Rioja wine from Ramon Bilbao.  And it's always great to get over to Ktown to visit.

The next AM we were up early for an excursion to the islands.  Patrick, Courtney, Nina, Kenny, Will, Sarah, Tom, Caroline, Matt, and Hailey joined Paul and I for a 45 minute ferry from Stanley down to this little island Po Toi for some seafood lunch. We'd been once before with Nina's parents and LOVED the food.  Now that the weather is finally nice it was time to go back for some salt and pepper squid, fish, clams, shrimps, and noodles all appropriately paired with New Zealand Sauv Blanc (Oyster Bay), Chilean Cab (William Fevre), Pouilly Fume, and some Prosecco.  Lovely little day out on the water.  Followed by the opening of the Island East Market!! My favorite, and my favorite especially now that I don't work it!!!
At work on Monday Jay took out an important client to lunch and had the above leftover for us to try.  Ohhhhh this is definitley my favorite white wine I have ever tried ever.  Kind of funky- err I suppose just not 'classic' Burgundy, but ultra concentrated and rich, and strangely reminded me of bees...I suppose it was a pollen-esq flavor and the richness that reminded me of honey, but bzz bzz loved this!  This is from Bernard Van Berg who is this insanely awesome guy in Burgundy who hand prunes and cares for everyone of his vines.  He even hand bottles the wine.  Hand bottles each and every wine.  Crazy.  This bottle retails with us for $2,800 and his wines are the most expensive wines on the world's best restaurant, Noma in Denmark.  No wonder I liked it so much.

And we're making some progress with the suits...One arm is the new hot thing in Asia this year.

Thursday evening I met up with Will, Sarah, Nina, Kenny, Derek, Laura, Paul and David for some nachos, quesadillas and brews at Stone's, our Tai Hang go to.  Friday was mid-autumn festival (no work) so the night before the dragon dance commenced.  We lined up with the million other people to see the Tai Hang dragon dance, but lo and behold could not.  Too crowded and turns out it wasn't a parade but more of a stationary smoke fest, so we went back to an open roadway, met Court, Patrick, Jackie and her brother for some roadside drinks.  Clock struck 12 and we called it a night.
Paul, moon, Will
Friday I made an amazing breakfast of whatever we had in the fridge; broccoli spinache garlic pesto stirfry with peas and green pepers over rocket all topped with Parmesan and a fried egg.  Twas a good one.  A really exceptionally good one.  Mmm peas.
loved this salad.
Friday and Paul and I hung around catching up on errands and reading.  Me wine, him 9th grade essays.  Then Will, Sarah, Nina, and Kenny came over for some Cards Against Humanity (thank you Chetta, we LOVE it!!!) ,Wii (thank you Mom, we LOVE it), and Jacomaxx Pizza (thank you Jaco, Paul LOVES it). 
Will, Carbonara, meat plate, anchovy, veg, and meat/olive pizzas

Nina-ish, Kenny, Sarah, Will and Paul getting shocked
And then Vanessa came!! She got in late so we just chatted for a bit and called it a night.  Saturday Paul had to go to some school orientation so Vanessa and I hit the streets in search of some HK Matzu temples.  Matzu (Mat-jou in Canto) is the goddess of the sea and she protects the fisherman.  Well turns out she really wants Vanessa to stay in HK. More on that.
We went to this amazing temple in Tin Hau (which is named after the temple- Matzu is also known as Tin Hau) and felt very welcomed by the people working there.  It's so much fun going to temples with Vanessa!  I had never enjoyed visiting them very much, but she's so passionate and excited by them and was able to explain the different gods and notions to me, that I too got into it.  We donated some money, offered some fruit, lit some insence, and connected with Miss Matzu herself, who I strongly believe is totally connected with Vanessa.  This sea goddess seems to have followed Vanessa here...super typhoon!!!
Sesame noodles <3
And then we met Paul at another temple (Man-Mo) in Shueng Wan.  We were told by some random girls we were bugging that this temple was for students and teacher to go and wish for a good year in school.  Religion is so funny here.  No one seems to have a deep knowledge, or at least just can't communicate it in a clear way, but more of a superficial understanding of what's directly relevant to this.  This is for students.  I go and pray.  The end.  I suppose I just don't know about it, but find it odd how people just accept things at face value with no interpretation of analysis...or again...maybe its just lost in translation.
Great sea cucumber and pork dumplings
But then we had some sick noodles and dumplings and life made sense again. 

Temple street vendor
After a brief respite at home we were off to Temple Street in search of yet another Tin Hau temple.  Alas, this temple was closed at dusk, so we wander back through dildo alley (who knew) to find some grub.  We went and had a horrible seafood dinner (grease, grease, and gross), and hoofed it up to Kwai Chung (ie middle of nowhere HK) for what promised to be an adventure.  Vanessa had read about this project- Keep the Silence- in Time Out magazine.  The premise was to pay what you want to see these artist who all play acoustically, or not, in an experimental deconstuctionalist way.  Or something.
So hipster
The first act was this really great acoustic band.  The second was less impressive, for what I would call noisy.  I get that he was trying to deconstruct sound and the norm, but it was just annoying and went on about 6 songs too long.  Eeeee aahhhhh squeek some weird singing that you couldn't make out, and them more noise.  1 for 2.
First great band
Then the last act (that we stayed for at least) came on.  As we sat on the floor, crossed legged, judging the band members and French people drinking Smirinoff ice (seriously, what the hell?), Yan Jun came on stage.  He had a noise amplifier and what looked to be a huge power strip of electrical things.  And then the 'noise art' began.  Noise.  and different noises.  Some totally appalling and offensive noises, and some melodic and quiet noises.  But at some point we all got transfixed and lost in the noises drifting off into emotion.  Or something.  And then it just went on too long.  Probably 15 minutes too long.... I tried, I really did. 
As Vanessa and I analyzed the performance in the 45 minute cab ride home, I realized I was moved by it.  I don't think 'enjoy' was the word.  Perhaps 'enthrall.'  But generally moved and opened up to a new form of art I hadn't considered, or even heard of, before.  Interesting indeed, and the warehouse added and extra cool factor.  Certainly a first and hopefully not a last.  Small doses....
Seriously dude? S Ice??

Woke up Sunday to threats of the worst storm of 2013.  In the world!!!!!  Vanessa's flight was obviously cancelled and nothing is left available until Tuesday....hopefullly!  We went and stocked up on some food and wine (duh) and then hit up one of the only places nearby for some unexpectedly delicious Pho.  Now we're currently at a T8 warning expecting nothing but a full typhoon day tomorrow.  Movies, wine, and cousin bonding.   Vanessa just made an orange offering to Matzu, so hopefully this won't be as bad as predicted....come on Matzu.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Fall" Is Here

Meaning only that the sun has actually decided to come out for more than one day!  The weather has cooled to a crisp 30 degrees and the humidity is down below 80%, wonderful!
Pulling out of Central
Last Sunday Paul and I head out for some island hopping.  We ferried over to the south port of Lamma Island, hiked up 40 or so minutes to the beach, jumped in the surprisingly clean and cold water, and met Courtney and Patrick for some ciders and beers.  Does anyone else love cider as much as I do?

Paul <3s Lamma (and Michigan)
Then we booked it to Sheung Wan to pick up our dinner from Secret Ingredient.  I don't know if they have this in the US, so if you're there and they don't- steal this idea.  You purchase a meal online.  Generally there are 4; a chicken, beef, fish, and random and you can either have it delivered to your door or you can pick it up.  We went with a 'chef collaboration' meal that was from the chef from Boqueria, a tapas joint. All of the ingredients to cook your meal come prepared (sliced and diced) and labeled alphabetically.  See below:
All you have to do it follow the directions and cook it.  I did like it for several reasons, including really high quality ingredients, the total of 15 minutes from the bag to the plate, and the generous portion size.  BUT, I  still found it kind of annoying.  I rather like cooking and found it restrictive to have all of the creativity taken away.  With that said we ordered another one later in the week (they're running a $100 off promotion) that was really tasty too.  And they delivered to my office right at 5 which was uber convenient.
Prawns, chorizo, octopus, potato, and grainy bread.  Served with a German Chardonnay.  Nice foot powder in the background...
Monday was devoted to studying Whiskey.  I've never sat down over a glass of whiskey before and really thought about what it tastes like (except at Glenlivet events- amazing!).  And I've certainly never sat down with 4 different glasses of whiskey to think about how they are different, but wow are they.  The Jameson was definitely the most oily.  The Macallan 12 year was obviously the most complex and delicious, but I was surprised how much I really enjoyed the fragrant and floral Chivas.  I suppose this is like anything, the more you learn and taste, the more elevated your tastes get, but for now I'm still digging the cheapo stuff. 

Next up, Rum!  (note the Champagne flutes for tasting- not so good for detecting aromas- it's all about the white wine glasses these days)
Tuesday was the most event I've been to in a long time.  Crown Wine Cellars, this amazing cellar and event venue up in the mountains of HK, held a tasting for the Cape Winemakers Guild.   Every year the top chateau in South Africa take their best barrel of wine and use the contents for wines that go off to auction for charity.  I've always enjoyed SA wine, but generally find they smokey and pretty simple.  Oh these wines were not.  They were lovely.  There were big Chardonnays, Grenache Gris, 2 sparkling, 3 Pinot Noirs, many Bordeaux blends, beautiful Syrahs and Shirazs, and we capped the night off with a Chenin Blanc noble rot dessert wine.  Devine.  I didn't end up bidding on anything because you had to buy in parcels of 24, and really, where will I keep that? 

36 wines, don't mind if I do
I went with my friend Simone (The Happy Wine Woman) who is just wonderful to taste with!  She's a dear friend, but aside from that she has a wonderful palate, and hailing from NZ, London, and Australia, a totally different set of vocabulary from me.  And the people at the tasting were all lovely too.  Apparently they have regular Tuesday sessions, and I was told I'm on the list for the next one...which ironically is on a Wednesday...
My favorite!
Wednesday was Secret Ingredient parte dos.  This time was another 'chef collaboration' with Christian, one of the guys behind Mana.  Mana is a great to-go place (fast slow food), that is vegetarian and full of great salads and flatbreads.  Our dinner was a tofu/haloumi/onion/capsicum(why do veg have different names in different countries?)/tomato fry, over an avocado/walnut/craisin salad.  Twas delish a ton of food and came in cute little boxes that I could use to wrap up my lunch for the next day.  <3 leftovers---I put it over quinoa and rocket-again with the different names...for lunch the next day

Yum and strange this is the first Chinese-style take away box I've seen in Asia
Thursday at work is our office meeting day which means it's also office tasting day.  Dear friend Bill came in to say hello and was greeted with this full and rich Pouilly Fuisse.  This was a Thanksgiving white.
Next up was a 2005 from Eddie Feraud in Chateauneuf du Pape, one of my favorite regions and this was a lovely lovely a-typical example.  Medium to light bodied (usually quite rich and heavy) with amazing animally and pepper flavours.  Loved this!

And of course we finished with a wonderful Morey St Deni from Des Lambrays.  This, again, suprised me, as it was very full and ripe.  Wine continues to amaze and impress me, especially with Ginsberg + Chan, where they have impeccable and elevated taste.  I've already learned so much here.
Thursday evening was a whole thing....where I ended up crashing boys night with Paul, Patrick and Michael, and continued the party on with Court up at their place.  We stayed out til 12:30 on a school night.  haha which is way later than we made it Friday...or Saturday night.
Friday after work I went over to Csilla (my wonderful Hungarian friend)'s place with Simone for a meeting for our new website.  We're still working on defining our objective and certain rubrixs, but I will be in touch soon with our official 'launch.'  Then Paul met me and we went home at ripe old 9:30, for poor Paul lives up in the NT on Saturdays...

And I get to go running in this!!  Sometimes I forget how incredibly amazingly gorgeous it is where I live.  The above running path is 3 minute walk from my front door.  I'm in a new routine where I run between 8-10k every morning.  I've decided that I should run while I can thanks to some horribly sad stories about some neighbors back home.  It's a daily celebration where I feel like I'm doing what my body was made to do.  It's not about being fast, or even being skinny, but pushing myself to be active.  Everyday when I stop my RunTracker I feel a huge sense of pride and accomplishment, and it's only 8am.