Saturday, November 30, 2013


Happy Thanksgiving week!  This year we were invited to an unprecendented five, FIVE, Thanksgiving dinners.  We were only able to attend two, but I can assure you, they were a phenomenal two. But before we get to all that...

Monday started with an 11 am Bordeaux tasting in Wan Chai with the fine folks of Ballande & Meneret, a French negociant.  The winemaker from Chateau Durfort-Vivens was in and told us about four wines from Margaux, Pauillac, and St. Estephe- all Left Bank.  All four of the wines were young and full of fruit and oak, and you could tell all great value that would age well.  I especially enjoyed the Ferriere for its long finish and strong punchy flavors.

I'd been craving some spicy noodles so hit up Shanghai Lane for lunch for their dan dan noodles.  There is nothing better on a cold day than these sesame spice laden noodles.  My god, yum. 

Tuesday Jay opened up a 5 oclock Gantenbein.  Most people haven't heard of this because the production is something ridiculously scant with only 180 bottles making it to the US per year.  This 2011 Swiss Pinot Noir was stop and stare at your glass amazing.  How do they make it so good?  Ultra intensity, LONG, long, long, still going Long, full of sour red cherry and oak.  This was unlike many Pinots I've had as it was young and concentrated but not overly ripe.  Divine, and a super deal at $1,200.  Try to find this quality, depth, and price in Burgundy.  No dice. 

I followed some Swiss wine with some fortified wine.  I joined the HK Wine Society for a heavenly tasting of 12 Sherries, 9 of which were dry, all of which were totally delicious. 

We had a great and surprisingly large turn out of about 20.   I was especially interested to try the Manzanilla En Rama (unfiltered meant to be drunk within 6 months of bottling) as you don't see them often over here.  It split the crowd, but I was into it.  The best for me (and most people) was the Gonzalez Byass Del Duque 30yr Amontillado.  So much complexity- toffee, caramel, spices, nuts- walnut and macadamia- smoke, orage peel, cigar...and the other amazing one was the ultra concentrated 130+ year old Barbadillo Reliquia Palo Cortado.  130!

Wednesday AM was an amazing presentation and tasting held by the Consorzio Conegliano Valdobbiadene aka Prosecco Superiore DOCG.  JC led the informative tasting of 8 very different Proseccos, including Uvagio Storico which I used to see at HOFWs.  Cool.  I didn't realize how many different style of Prosecco there were, and certainly never sat down to taste 8 of them next to each other.  Usually it's just one at brunch :) Honestly I'm not a huge fan of Prosecco as I find it too fruity and headache inducing, but some of these were straight up tasty.  The Villa Sandi Valdiobiaddiene di Cartizze (highest level of Cru) was especially lovely for its fresh and balanced palate.  I think I liked it because it was the least Prosecco-y of the bunch.

JC is an amazing speaker and teacher.  He's so full of passion, knowledge, and passion that you can't help but get excited about wine when he's around. He's what an MW should be. 

I went to a Berry Brother's tasting and tried some of their fantastic NZ Pinots from Central Otago.  The coolest part about the tasting was getting to check out the China Club.  It's this old school wood paneled member's club, filled to the brim with amazing and eclectic art.  Super cool.

And then some very nice Aussies I got to chatting with invited me out to join them for dinner.  The woman, above, Cindy, actually lives in NJ and is looking to move her family out here.  The guy, Paul, on the right is a local TV celebrity and often appears on CNN and CNBC as a finacial advisor.  We went to this amazing, not even open yet,  Chinese place, China Tang, had some dim sum and Peking duck and some really really delcious wines.  Then hit up Zuma for a nightcap and was home at midnight.  On a school night! 

Happy Thanksgiving.  Nina and Kenny, for the third year running, invited us over for an utterly delicous and memorable dinner.  Just look at that table!

We started with cheese and latkes.  Latkes should be a must on Thanksgiving, and Kenny's version dipped in sour cream and cranberry sauce is for sure the best I've ever had.

Paul, Will, Lisa, Jeff, and Mike chat in the living room.  Stuffing latkes in their mouths, and extolling stories of Hong Kong horror.  Ohhh the HK horror. 

Josh, Julia, Sarah and David sip their craft American beers and tell tales of HK dating, apartment hunting, and marriages abroad.

Nina made the moistest (why don't people like this word!?) browned bird we've had to date.  Spot on as always Nins. 

And then Jeff led us in some Hebrew chants (prayers? songs?) while he lit the menorah and we gawked at the turkey. 

Kenny documented from the table.  I documented from the kitchen. 

Best cooks I know in Hong Kong.  I've yet to come across a Kina dish I didn't love. 

The classics; turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, stuffing...

Plate 1.

Gobble gobble.
Kenny made a beautiful and tasty apple pie, and Nina made pumpkin cake that I could definitely eat for breakfast everyday. 

Hong Kong family.

And then things got silly.  Not really, 3D beer is now a requisite part of any Thanksgiving feast. Right, Mike?

Champagne and 3D tv. Thank you Nina and Kenny for a totally unforgettable peice of Americana in Asia.  We're so lucky to have so many incredible memories in such a fast two years. 

Friday the wine didn't stop.  But does it ever?  Great Wines of Italy parte dos meant a ton of top quality wines available for tasting at the Four Seasons.  With some totally banging cheese to boot. 

Problem was that the event was a total clusterf#)*j.  30,000,000 people in a small banquet room.  Pushing ensued.  Elbows, cutting, general rudeness, and a serious lack of spitoons.  It's a wine tasting for crying out loud!  With that said, there were the tops wines from Italy available for sampling.  Most of which were way too young, but some were plum for the drinking. Voerizio (sp?) was one of my favorites as was...


La Spinetta.  Yum yum yum!

And I'm pretty sure 98% of the Hong Kong wine industry was there.  Hi Jon and Ophelia!

Thanksgvining parte dos, this time with Jeff Boda.  Jeff is awesome.  He's a writer for the NYTimes and also one of the owners of Hop Leaf, the best craft beer importer in Hong Kong.  Jeff has been in HK since the late 90s and has been hosting an orphan Tday ever since.  Check out what's in his hand- bacon explosion.  Handmade Italian sausage wrapped in a basket of bacon.

All to be cooked up and put on a hard baguette with chipotle mayonaise.  I don't say this often (ha!) but this was the  best thing I have ever eaten. Ever.  Forget turkey and mashed potatoes good.  And check out the mini-keg of Bells Brown Ale! America.

And Kenny was there with another strikingly delectable apple pie.  But there was a lot of pie...

And I'm quite proud to annouce that I tried one of each.  My fav was probably the pumpkin cheesecake.  So ridiculously decadent, dense and delcious.

Then Jeff pulled out the big boys; fruit beers.  These were smuggled after his last trip home.  These babies are only available in very limited quantity in Wisconsin, and were super concentrated and super tasty.  Thanks for an incredible evening of new friends, old friends, new favorites, old favorites, and a wide array of some of the best craft beers.

And then Nina pointed out that Paul and I dressed with the same color palate.  So we took some awkward photos.

Same same but different.

What's red white and blue all over?  Paul and Lauren!

Saturday = Clockenflap day!  Apparently now Clockenflap has gained some notoriety and people come from all over Asia for this music feastival.  I went the first year but had to work last, but this year Paul and I were both able to make the Saturday night for some rando acts and Franz Ferdinand. This city is gorgeous.  It still amazes me the cool things that happen right in the middle of this ultra densely populated metropolsis.  HK you cetainly have your moments. 

Kat, Court and I <3 Chic.   Funky funk, man.  Clockenflap rocks- lots of vendors, a lot of stages, cool local restaurants, random tents of light, silent disco.  Basically all of Hong Kong was here in their hipster best.  We kept looking around asking ourselves where all of these people were every other day.

Simply spectacular.
Woo, take me out.
Now on a WTF, Asia you suck note.  We found our dream apartment.  We put in an offer.  Offer was accepted.   We went today to give over our deposit check and sign the contract when we were informed that they still had some more people to show the apartment.  F you landlord and your lack of respect for your word.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Race one down

This week was particularly full of fine wines, which is the kind of week I like having.  Yes, I think all weeks should be fine wine heavy.  Let's start with Monday, shall we?
I saw a giant snail on my Monday run.  I've never seen a snail in Hong Kong before, muchless on a sidewalk on the side of the Chai Wan highway. 
Tuesday I had wine tasting class with JC.  But before I got there I stopped by my friend's wineshop, Key Wines, for a quick warm up tasting.   Adrienne was showing off a range of Cali wines; all of which were easy drinking and full of fruit.  I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay (left) and PX she snuck me at the end.  Thanks, A!
At JCs we focused on red wines.  We began with 2 Pinot Noirs; one from Marlborough, NZ, and the other a 1er Xru from Domaine de Coural on the Cote d'Or.  Quite different with the latter much much more interesting.  Then we went on to a Chilean Carmenere, identifiable by its herbaceousness, Stag's Leap from Napa, a Penedes Tempranillo, and finally with my favorite; Dal Forna (uber famous in Veneto) Valpolicella DOC Ripasso 2006.  Amaazing, long, and full of dried fruit, chocolate, and deliciouness. 

Last weekend after I left Laura's they all went out.  Apparently Laura had an undiagnosed stress fracture that just got worse and worse as she danced in her heels all night.  It resulted in the above for the next 6 weeks!   Hong Kong is not a place you want to be in crutches, but more importantly Bali isn't.  Get better Laura!
This is THE apt.  Doesn't look like much in this pic, but it's amazing!!
 Wednesday was full of apartment hunting.  Paul and I have decided that we'd like to move before our wedding, hopefully so we'll have room for guests, so that means the hunt is on.  Wednesday wasn't promising, but we found 2 that we love.  One of which is lower than what we're paying now, but in Happy Valley which Paul isn't thrilled about.  The other we both totally love.  It's big with a big bedroom and great storage.  It's in the mid-levels close to all of our friends and where we always hang out.  It's furnished.  It has huge windows.  It has a HUGE private roofdeck with grill.  And it's a 4 floor walk up.  It's also $5,000 more per month than we're currently paying.  We put in an offer, much lower than their asking, and are hoping we can work something out.  Ohhhhh and it has an oven!
Thursday I went out for a lovely lunch with a new friend.  We had been email introduced over a year ago, and finally got around to getting a bite this week.  Catherine is lovely, super passionate about wine and travel, and just an overall cool lady.  I look forward to seeing her more!
Lunch was followed by Bonham's Auction.  Great auction of some really incredible wines and one day soon I will start building my collection.  From auctions, from collectors, from Ginsberg + Chan. 

And then it was time for Beaujolais Nouveau!  Every 3rd Thursday in November the winemaker of Beaujolais release their "Nouveau" wines to the masses.  These wines are made using carbonic maceration (google it) and are fruity, light, way too easy to drink, and not for keeping.  They have a bad rap these days as a bunch of crap infiltrated the markets after it's popularity.  But Court, Julia, Kass, and new friend Sarah and I went to La Cabane a Vin for their stock.
I've mentioned my love of La Cabane before, but it really is an incredible natural wine bar.  Alison and Alban were there to hook us up with some really tasty natural BN.  The above was the resounding favorite.  Way too easy to drink, and would be a perfect mate for Thanksgiving dinner.
Friday in the office Jay opened up some really interesting wines.  He'd been hearing a lot about David Leclapart recently, so we popped 2 to see what the fuss was about.  David is of the "natural" camp, using very limited sulphites, farming under biodynamic principals, foot stomping grapes, and aging the wines in old Burgundy (Leflaive) barrels.  Oh and he's based in Champagne. 
First up was L'Alchimiste.  I had written an offer for this last week and was surprised and intrigued when I found a review describing the Champer as full of "Sherry and iron."  And not in a good way.  I actually quite liked this, but I think I was the only one...for me it certainly expressed a lot of oxidative character-apple core, but heavier on cranberry, stawberry and yeast with a popcorn jelly belly finish.  Strange but oh so interesting.
Next was a still red (100% Pinot Noir).  This was definitely a cool climate pinot.  Earthy with some dried fruit flavors, the texture is what weirded me out here.  It was definitely "natural" and as such had a bit of a chalky texture.  I hated this when I first had it, but when I went back to it hours later at Quinn's it was quite good.  Laura even approved!
Finally to wash their mouths out, Jerry and Jay opened up a Francois Gerber Vosnee Romanee 09.  Ahh nothing like some Burgundy to refresh the palate!  Then twas off to see an apartment and go to Quinn's for Kristin's going away.
They're dropping like flies these days.  Emily left.  Steve left.  Charlie left.  Court and Patrick keep threatening to leave (they won't).  And now Kristen's going.  Boo. 
Saturday was my bi-weekly G+C tasting.  In honor of Thanksgiving we broke out some American beauties, all of which I hadn't tried before (likely because they're all $100usd+).   1. Robert Mondavi Cab Sauv 1986.  Still some fruit left- amazing!- but it faded pretty quickly.  2. Diamond Creek Rock Terrace 1995- my 2nd favorite of the bunch.  Great fruit, smooth, almost Barolo like on the nose.  3.  Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 1995. Interesting and full of fruit and tannin-this will keep going for a while.  4. Phelps Insignia 1997- my favorite.  This was big and chocolatey and what you expect from Napa. 5. Dominus 1996- also great with smoky cedar aromas, and some tea and alcohol on the palate.  Yum.
We had a good turn out, and at the very end Bernard showed up.  Bernard consigns some wines with us (which I finally learned that Bernard was that Bernard- he's so young!), and is a good friend of G+C.  He decided to open up a 1983 bottle of Dom.  Wow.  This was kind of leaking, so it was more of an experiment than anything, but WOW.  This was tending toward brown, totally funky on the nose.  "Oxidated apple core that's been sitting in the sun for a week" was my note. But on the palate it actually had some life left.  It was like drinking an Amontillado Sherry, and the funniest part was how much Paul loved it.  Paul's not a big bubbles fan (I think it's more in his head than based on actual experience) but he couldn't get enough of this.  I think he was as impressed as its age as by its taste.
As we were opening the 83 I expressed my excitement as I'd never tried Dom before.  Bernard didn't want me to be let down by my first Dom experience, so we opened a 1993, which is THE vintage to drink right now.  And oh.  Ohhhh ohhh ohhh how great it was.  Toasted almonds, vanilla custard filled brioche, walnut, baked apples.  This was crisp, refreshing, ablanced and totally creamy.  "Not so acid like other Chapmagne," says Paul.  And it is, it's just totally in balance so the acid doesn't stick out.  Thank you thank you, Bernard.  Cannot wait to we go out for a hotpot night!
Wine expert, Paul, assessed the color of the 83.  Brown.
Then we went and checked out our future apartment (please, please, please), and hit up Mr. Bing for a kimchi pancak.  Mr. Bing is awesome.  Bejing style pancakes (crepes) that you can get filled with kimchi, pork, duck...or just yummy delicious sauce.  So good and so cheap.
Then we head up to Sham Shui Po (aka nowhere Kowloon) for the Ovolo hotel.  We booked a night at this hotel in preparation for my 10k at Disney.  Disney is roughly 2 hours from Quarry Bay, and I'm pretty sure the race wouldn't have happened had I had to get up at 4:30am to get there.  The Ovolo was only a 20 minute cab, and more importantly was an awesome escape from HK.  Sham Shui Po is pretty industrial, so come nighttime there's not a soul in sight.  We walked into that hotel at 7pm not to exit til the morning. 
We showed up at 7 just in time for the last hour of happy hour.  An open bar of wine, beer, and liquor and then bar snacks like peanuts and chips until 8pm. Fantastic.  The room itself was very modern and nice with some decent movie channels in English- a rarity in Asia. 
post race sparkling water a la Ovolo
We got up at 6am, cabbed it to Disney and arrived right at 6:45 at which time I noticed I was in group 2 of the 10k race, not set to start til 7:50.  I didn't feel like waiting so I jumped into the "Challenge 10k" race which started at 7.  I'm telling you, this race was tough.  I had a coffee before running, and I think that was a poor choice.  By 5k I was in pain searching for a toilet, and by K8 I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it.  But I did, and I did alright too.  My goal was to come in less than 50 minutes, and I came in right at 50 minutes.  As much I was hating running during the race, I felt really fantastic afterward and proud of myself for not stopping.  And the best part was as I was coming down the final corridor I could see Paul on the left waving and cheering me on.  Every race I've ever done, I have done alone, and it was really encouraging to see a familiar face when I was pretty sure I was about to lose it all over the course.  Too much?
When I run alone I tend to stop and walk, or slow way down (generally 5:30 average pace), so I stepped it up here.  Ha- probably out of dire necessity.  Regardless, I have a bit of a break before my next 10k in February.  I may bandit run the 1/2...meh..probably not. 

We asked for a late check out, so went back to the hotel, hit up the breakfast bar and then went right back to bed.  Then lazed around watching BBC cooking shows.  Hotel getways are so necessary sometimes.  Nothing to distract me from TV...ahhh. Who has time for TV!?
It was so nice to get away for a night and just have some quiet time.  And I really can't speak more highly about the Ovolo hotel.  They really care about your experience there which is apparent throughout your entire stay.  Next time we're inviting friends and we're going to Aberdeen. 
We finally mini-bused it down to TST for a Japanese lunch where Paul discovered frozen beer.  Kirin utlized "Japanese technology" to create a beer with frozen head.  Changed Paul's life.  We hit the Island East Market for my girl Jomb's amazing cheesecake brownies and cookies and have popped some Argentinian bubbles (again- not Paul's choice) for a night of catching up on Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, and Homeland.  Sunday funday. 
Happy Thanksgiving week!