Friday, February 21, 2014

Another Week Revolving Around Wine

Dear Diary,

Sunday evening Paul and I met Csilla and Ian and Simone and Mark for a wonderful dinner at 121BC, a natural wine bar.  I went in a few weeks ago to meet the Somm and have been looking for an excuse to go back ever since.  It had great (although small) Italian bites and amazing wines. 

Simone and I shared a carafe of an orange wine (white wine made in the same way as red wine- on the skins- so it has tannin and really cool texture) and then we had an incredible bottle of Etna Rosso above, and a third bottle of Amarone.  All of the wines they do are natural, meaning the only ingredients in the wine are grapes and a touch of SO2.  Most wine contain anything from enzymes to egg to fish guts (hey, the blog name!), so less hangover and must fresher taste.  If you haven't been, go in for a glass of the Zabibo- the orange wine.  It's cool.
Tuesday I met Alison, Kim, and Ferorsa for natural French wines.  La Cabane a Vin hosted- well Alison hosted- a Mediterranean tasting of some Corsican and S. France wines, and there was cheese and ham and gluten free brownies. Above.

The wines were all really great, and again, no hangover.  You've gotta get on this natural wine bandwagon.  It's a beautiful thing.

 Wednesday was Volnay (an appellation in the Cote de Beaune, Burgundy) dinner at La Parole.  This was the fourth and final installment of Burgundy dinners hosted by Michael, and it was absolutely divine.
Pan fried foie gras with chestnuts.  This is why I run- heaven!
 I remember the first dinner Ian, my WSET 3 teacher, invited me along to.  One, it was the first time I met Simone who is now a dear dear friend, but two, I remember sitting there like what the hell are these people talking.  I had no idea about Burgundy, had very limited experience even tasting wine, and was sitting at a table surrounded by some of Hong Kong's most respected wine authorities. 
 But now, a year later, I can totally hack it!  Not only do I know what everyone's talking about, but I have an opinion and experience with the wines, regions, producers, and vintages.   I had tried a couple of the whites from Henri Boillot, above, at a G+C tasting and wasn't hugely impressed, but I really enjoyed both of the reds we had at dinner. 
Simone, waiter, James of Altaya, and Roland who is studying for his MW
Volnay is a lovely appellation with light, floral, yet concentrated reds.  Great stuff, and not as expensive as their Cote de Nuits counterparts, Chambolle Musigny namely.
Cod with purple mashed sweet potatoes
 And the food at La Parole is awesome.  Solid French food for a great price and no corkage.  Get better.
 We spend hours going through two flights of 5 wines, dissecting each to determine the vintage and level- village or 1er cru.  I got the vintages right for a lot of them.  2009 was a super ripe vintage, as such is approachable now (top Burgundy usually needs 10+ years cellaring to open up), and is full fruit and would have lower acid.  2011 was a good vintage but would be pretty tight right now. 
 The 03s and older were everyone's favorites.  2003 was also a great, sunny, ripe vintage, and second only to 2005.  The naughties were a good run in Burgundy...and everywhere really.
 And oh my god the bread pudding.  The fruit sorbet in the middle was confusing and necessary, but that doughy delicious bread and chocolate was the thing of dreams.  Of dreams!
 Thursday was wine class with JC.  This is the first installment post holiday and it was awesome to get back at it.  Theme: Natural Italian Wines.  We tasted 4 whites as presented by Giogio, co-owner of 121BC.  They were a bit funky, but the Campania Fiano was awesome
 . Then Olek came and presented four of his wines; Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo DOC, and Barbaresco DOCG.  We then compare them to a traditionally made Barbaresco.  Smelling them side by side was enlightening.  You could actually smell the chemicals and lack of freshness in the other wine, but will still a great wine..  The natural wines were all so fresh and rip and absolutely delicious. 
 Giogio doing a little QC.  And the cool thing is that I found out JC nominated me to be eligible for the trip to VinItaly!  AND JC, Olek, and Giorgio will all be there too!  I cannnnnnot wait!
Nerd alert.   Where's Paul been all week?  I don't know I haven't seen him...

 Friday I met with Alison and Tom and Caroline Raggatt for an Italian (Tuscany) tasting at Schmidt Vinotek.  My man Kevin was there who made me a VIP member- yey!- and also Patrick and my girl Sherry.  We tasted a Chard/Viognier blend which I bought.  A Sangiovese rose which is really unique.  A light Chianti, and a tasty Syrah.  I hope they keep these events going.
And then I finally met Paul with Alison and we had some tasty, albeit small, cocktails at a new bar up the street, Lab Made.  Inventive cocktails with local ingredients, but shitty booze.   Bacardi is the best you can do guys??

Saturday!  Paul went to school.  I went for a long run.  We're meeting at a market for lunch.  And then no plans!  Wooh.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


April is a lot of things.  It's usually rainy, or in Hong Kong grey and really really rainy.  It's Chetta and Ryan's birthdays.  It's my mom and dad's and cousin Shannon's anniversaries.  It used to be spring break and midterms.  It's Easter.  It's probably the first time you can hit the beach. 

Well this April is four distinct very important things in my life.

1.  April is my first business trip for Ginsberg+Chan (other than Shenzen which doesn't really count).  I'm going to Italy!!!!!!!!!!!!!  For VinItaly no less.  April 4-10th I'll be tasting wines in Verona with thousands of Italy and Europe's top wine producers.  Woot. 

2.  My family and friends FINALLY come to Hong Kong!  Mom, Dad, Aunt Connie, Stacy, Russell, Kati, Steve, Taylor, Aunt Lynn, and Jen all embark on these fair shores.

3.  I get married.  In Bali.  With 50 of my best friends and family.  To Paul.

4.  My office moves to Central.  This may not sounds huge, but it means my commute goes from 35 to 5 minutes.  It also means Ginsberg+Chan are in the big leagues.  We're going to have more tastings, more access to our customers both private and in F&B, and it means better lunch options, which you know, is huge. 

So yeah, April. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Survival of the Fittest

I may not have made it to my race this am (a planned skip), but I managed to brave the cold February seas sans incident or frostbite.

Pre-cold boat Paul made a delicious lunch of Thai red curry and polenta.  After finishing his creation he proclaimed that he deserved a show for his cross-cuisine concoction.  It was pretty crazy delicious but I don't know if Paul's Rachel Ray ready...yet.
Red curry paste, coconut milk, onion, broccoli, potato, white beans.  A blending of cultures
 Later that very same day, I went to get my dress altered.  Apparently because of the fabric and fine stitching that Monique is famous for, it is the hardest dress ever to alter.  Eve, who designed my friend Julia's gorgeous wedding dress below, is clearly very talented and full of awesome insight so I fully trust anything she says or does.  As she was pulling my dress tighter she realized it would start to pouch and puff in some places and said that for the "perfect" job they'd have to take the entire bodice apart seam by seam, cut, and resew it all.  All of which is incredibly difficult to do given the jersey material.  She asked how concerned I was with "perfect," to which I replied, not so much, so she's just going to pull it in on the sides and put in some padding to fill out the chest.  Check.

How gorgeous is Julia and Mike's wedding?  This was last September in New Zealand.

After dresses, Allison and I met for a glass of some mulled wine at my favorite neighborhood haunt La Cabane a Vin.  The warm wine prepped us for our nautical night out.
 ICC by night.  It was twinkling with horses, fireworks, and other building appropriate images...
 Courtney hired Mr. Bing to come make Beijing style crepes.  The seas were a bit rough and more than a few people we head overboard, including our pancake maker....

 So Michael jumped in to save the day.  I'm not going to lie, I preferred the crepes we made over his.  It's all about the extra sauce man.
Alicia and I staying warm with some Bing.  Overall a great junk, cool Disney fireworks, best friends... and Paul and I went home immediately to fall asleep before midnight.  Perfect.  Thanks Court!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

And finally a relatively quiet week.  I don't know if it's the ridiculous cold, or just general exhaustion from the past few months pace, but Monday and Tuesday I took it easy.  And it was nice.  

I went two entire days without a glass of wine (or anything), cooked healthy lunches, forgo running (8 degrees, no thank you!) and just chilled.  Twas nice. 
Then on Wednesday I went to new friends Nicole and Adam's house for dinner.  They are super sweet, and she is a just a ball of energy.  Nic whipped up tumeric cauliflower, veg curry, chicken vindaloo, and a pomelo shrimp salad with sides of rice and parantha.  We were joined by their neighbors who I had also briefly met last weekend, Marie and Dane.  They, too are super fun.  After we stuffed ourselves full o Indian, Nicole and Adam brought out a homemade choc cake with "biscuit" ice cream.  It was amazing.  Now I need a kitchen table so we can return the favor...
Thursday I had a meeting up at the Clearwater Bay Country Club.  I had a tasty beet root goats cheese salad lunch, great glass of Lebanese wine, and locked down a tasting event for May.  The entire three hour meeting was held out on the deck.  While stunning, my poor panty-hosed feet were numb and about to fall off by the end.  Luckily I caught a ride, in a Porsche no less, back to civilization.  Club be in the middle of nowhere. 

Cool balloons at CWBCC.  Afterward, I went to the American Club to meet with the somm there. Another lovely club and another lovely meeting.
I went home, put on socks and pants, and parked up next to the mini-heater.  When with this anti-inferno end?

Since we had plans on actual Valentine's Day, we had a mini Thursday celebration.  Stinky cheese, leftovers from Nicole (thanks!), and a gorgeous glass of 2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Blanc.  It was absolutely stunning and as it opened up gained more nutty flavors which were awesome with the cheese and Black Sails, our new favorite, albeit incredible cheesy, pirate show.
Friday was busy at work and then Joe and I went out all afternoon in an effort to sell more wine. We gained some leads but found it difficult to walk into places, especially when they were all setting up for Valentine's Day, so we stopped and had a glass of wine.  Which actually was official business as we're getting a quote (and an in!) to rent out a steakhouse. 

Later that very same evening, my best friend from age 3 to 6's mom and new husband came over!  We had two really delicious wines (Aussie Cab from my buddy at Tasty In, and the Riesling from my lady Sherry at Schmidt Vinothek), shared some cheese and caught up about life.  We hadn't seen each other for 12 years, and that was breifly at a party.  Before that it had probably been another 12 years.  How is it possible I'm that old?

Elfreida and Rudy are on a ridiculously awesome Asian tour.  They began in Bali then in and out of Singapore to Cambodia, back in and out of Singapore to HK, and will continue on a cruise to Vietnam and eventually Singapore where they'll fly to Myanmar for an incredible 18 day tour.  I want to be them when I grow up.   They're both German and have both always had an innate desire to travel which really has me questioning what's up with Americans?
We had an awesome Chinese dinner of cumin lamb, Szechuan chicken, and dumplings.  It was a perfect Valentine's Day!

Today Paul woke up at 7:30 to go to school and I woke up at 10 to go for my first run in a week.  It felt good but made me realize I'm not up for a 5:30am 10k Challenge run tomorrow.  I am trying to give my bib away, but no one seems to be taking.  I think this weather has killed everyone's motivation. 

We have a night junk with Courtney in celebration of her brother's arrival tonight.  Unlimited Mr. Bing Beijing style pancakes is a huge plus, sub 20 degree weather is a huge minus.  God help us all. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

After Holiday Catch Up with Hong Kong

It seems as if everyone went from full on holiday mode right back into full on HK crazytown mode.  The office was quiet during the short week, but there was no shortage of noise in the off peak hours.

 Tuesday I joined some fellow wine enthusiasts for an "odd bottle" tasting at the Swiss Wine Store in TST.  It's actually a private club and was in a really cool, Korean area, bursting with fun little restaurants.  The idea was that everyone brings a bottle of something kind of weird.  I brought a Loire Valley (Saumur) Cab Franc (with a touch of Cab Sauv) from Chateau de Fosse Seche.  I'd been hearing about this natural kind of funky wine at work for a while so was excited to have a chance to taste it.  Perhaps it was the wines before, but it wasn't terribly impressive.  I guess it was quite characteristic of a natural wine.
 Damien set up a lovely spread of cheese and meats, and we went through wine by wine sharing impressions and appraisals.  First was Luc Massy Dezaley Grand Cru 2011.  This 100% Chasselas was one of the finest examples you could find according to Damien (the Swiss wine guy).  I thought it was just lovely with citrus and floral notes.  Next we had two wines from the Canary Islands.  They probably would have been ok if you were out at the beach or on a boat, but compared with #1, meh.

Jack, who organized, brought a magnum of 2005 Chatus.  I had never heard of this grape, and apparently that's no odd as it's no really grown outside 15 ha in the South of France.  Apparently it's pickier than Pinot and Nebbiolo to grow.  It was totally earthy, slightly floral, and very tart.  I suspect this wine was a few years past its prime.  We also had a really nice Pinot from Studack who apparently is the lesser known Gantenbein.  The last Swiss wine was Domaine Eveche 2005- a Diolinoir which I had never heard of.  It's a crossing of Pinot Noir and Rouge de Doilly.  It also was very very enjoyable.

Overall a cool night among wine dorks.  It doesn't get much better on a Tuesday!  Paul made veg soup, above, while I was out.  Slowly, slowly I'm moving him to the green side. 

 Wednesday was race night.  I never want to go, hate it for the first 10 minutes, and then realize why the races are so fun.  You run into friends you didn't expect to be there, Mike and NZ buddy Nick, the friends you were supposed to meet there, Alica, Joey, Court, Patrick, you drink a bottle of wine you brought from work and call it a night at 9.  Oh, and your horse wins.  Paul walked out of there $60hkd.  Winning.
 Thursday I had lunch with my friend Freeman at a Happy Valley Vietnamese place.  This was the tofu salad.  Not quite what I had pictured....
After work, while walking from Happy Valley to Wan Chai, I was stopped by the police saying the sidewalk was blocked off.  Perplexed, and with Paul on the phone, I was about to protest when a whole group of Muslims, turbans and all, warned me there was a bomb.  I was laughing at the absurdity of the situation while Paul on the phone is saying in a hushed tone, "You turn around, you turn around right now and get out of there.  GET OUT OF THERE."  I followed instructions, hung up, crossed the street, and continued on my way.  Above is the Mosque and the AIA buildings being evacuated.  A quick good search was enlightening.  Apparently a WWII bomb from the good ole USA was discovered buried in a construction zoone.  Doh!

 I finally made it to meet Allison for dinner at Maya Cafe on Moon Street.  I had been wanting to come for some time as I knew it to be organic and full of the kind of hippie grass I love to eat.  And boy did it impress, not in service, but the food was amazing!  Above is the zucchini "pasta" with walnut pesto and artichokes.  We also had a trio of hummus, and a raw, vegan, gluten free brownie for dessert that was to die for.  I totally recommend going and walked out really inspired to mix some things up in my kitchen.
 Friday I left work to go to a few meetings, one of which was at 121BC, another place on my shortlist of must go-tos.  It's a fantastic little space with a great wine list filled with small artisinal producers.  Simone, the Somm, very kindly poured my a delicious Franciacorta (Italy's answer to Champagne, and my god was it great) and after he finished writing the night's menu on the board I swore I would be back soon.
 Saturday I went to pick up my race pack for next Sunday's 10k.  There were some booths handing out free stuff like trial size hand sanitizer and mini Snicker's bars.   Above is a picture of all of the ridiculous people who line up in absurd queues for something they will most likely throw away.  Hey there's a 711 across the street where you can pick up that garbage for $4 and no line!  Hong Kong....
Then we had a work wine tasting of some incredible wines.  Not only did this tasting sell out extremely quickly, but it's the first time we finished all of the wines before the 2 hour allotment.  We had 3 wines from Meo Camuzet (Chambolle Musigny, Vosne Romanee, and NSG 1er Cru) all 2009 and all quite ripe and delicious.  We had a surprise bottle of Robert Chevillon NSG 1er Cru, also 2009, that was a big surprise for me because I'd never heard the guy's name before.  Amazing.  I managed to sneak in tiny pours of the last two wines; Prieure Roch NSG.  One a 1er Cru monopole 2000, the other from super old vines 2005.  Both spectacularly perfumed, exactly what you'd expect from one of the owners of DRC.

 Saturday evening we went to a warehouse warming from Marco B.  He invited his past event guests to come to the launch of his Chai Wan warehouse (which is in the middle of nowhere).  It was a really great space, filled with Italian cheeses, salamis, hams, and of course wine.  Above is Marco's own wine, not for sale, quite young at 2005, but obviously with potential for years.
 Despite looks, there were actually people at the party.  Really nice people, and we even made some new friends.  I'm going running with one of them tomorrow provided the weather holds.  It's somehow totally regressed back into the depths of winter.  Rain, cold, rain.  This sucks. 
 The cheese and ham were awesome and luckily the wholesaler was at the party.  Guess where his office is.  Sheung Wan!
After a 10k hike/run in the am, the skies opened up and the cold descended.  Paul and I holed up inside, him preparing for a review, me cooking.  I found this delicious recipe for a cashew sauce that I put with soba noodles, zucchini noodles (a la Maya Cafe), and purple cabbage.  It was really great and I left myself a huge portion for lunch at work today, when I learned a really important lessen.  I am mildly allergic- or maybe everyone is?- to loads of cashews.  Note to self, light on the cashew sauce, heavier on the noodles.

Anyway, we're now well into Frugal February, and today is day 1 or hopefully 2 detox days. And thanks to the cashews, it really was a detox day.  Ta for now!

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Economy plus upgrade.  Thanks, Cathay!
Boring noodles with Chardonnay.
Heading to our hotel
Said hotel with duty free Scotch.  Winning.
I attempted to go for a morning run but the motorbikes, lack of sidewalks, and street vendors made that pretty impossible. 
We saw quite a few dragon parades.
Interesting buildings and lanterns.
30 degrees warm and sunny.
The park near our hotel was filled with flowers for the Tet holiday.  This dragon fruit arrangement was particularly unique.
One of the best things about Vietnam; super black coffee and condensed milk.
Our first meal was street noodles.  Paul's (above) was really rich and full of chicken, grease, peanuts, rice cakes and fresh herbs.  It was probably the best bowl of noodles either of us has ever had.
Mine was also really tasty.  Less greasy (hence a bit less flavor) but with tofu, coagulated blood (not as gross as it sounds), meat cakes and fresh herbs.  ~$3
Garlic statues in the market.
Paul and the giant fruit tree.
The War Remembrance Museum was opened. It wasn't exactly how I remembered it from 4 years before.
Paul was into the planes.
And helicopters
There was a lot of propaganda and not so much reporting on the actual war.  One would expect a timeline of critical events.  Not so much, but there was an entire room dedicated to which countries around the world protested the war.
This was one of probably 5 bahn mi sandwhiches over the 5 days.  So simple, yet so crazy delicious.
After the museum we took a walk.
To a cool park.
With funny Dr. Seuss trees.
Then we walked by what I can only guess was snake medicine/liquor  Stacy, expect this for Christmas.
Then after miles and miles of walking we found a cute little German hoff.  So we stopped for a beer.
And then wandered back into the main area of town.

Where we stopped at the Rex hotel for cocktails.  This is where reporters hung out during the war.  We weren't so impressed.
Wine!  Not good expensive wine, but wine nonetheless.
Later that night we went out for Mexican (it looked good!) and some Tiger beers.
Paul's a tiger.  Rrr.
I'm a girl tiger.
The "Mexican" fajitas were awesome.  We shared a plate.
Then wandered down the street for some Vietnamese claypot tofu.
And then went for pedicures.
Where the women proceeded to make Paul bleed.  She wasn't great with the razor...
Feeling (mildly) pampered and stated, we were happy.
The backpacker area was still crazy despite the holiday.  Paul and I realized we're no longer backpackers.  We like showers.  And wine.  And wearing shirts.
Beef pho for breakfast at a local joint.
A very nice old man sitting next to us told us it had been there for 30+ years, and I believe him.  It was delicious.
More walking.... a giant hamburger

To the pool at the Rex, which was much better than their cocktails and wine.
<3 ice coffee.  <3

Before the sunburn came out.
We stopped for a snack.  Turned into a 4pm dinner.  Above is a "Vietnamese pancake."  It was superb and filled with all sorts of veg and tofu.
We also go the pumpkin nuggets which came out like this. It was a kamboucha squash filled with tomato rice.  Much bigger and tastier than the nuggets we anticipated.
Uno and beers at the Bookworm Cafe.
Ok, so we like being backpackers sometimes.

Our last morning in backpacker alley.
Then we upgraded to the river.
Hippies be gone.

Nice big room with a gorgeous river view.

Alright, maybe not gorgeous.  But a view.
I thought the flowers were a very nice touch.
We also had a really sweet rooftop pool, spa, and gym.  We used all three.
 We went in search of Le Jardin where Paul had called a week earlier to make a reservation.  We finally found it and learned it was closed for the next 2 weeks.  Hmm.  Nearby we found this awesome open air grill place.
 So we did what anyone would do and order crocodile and beers. 
Oh and Russian cheese floss which was surprisingly smoky and tasty.  
 As we walked back to the hotel for some more pool and massages we saw this place and decided it looked pretty awesome.
 And it was.  Modern Vietnamese.
These we ordered because the name was in Vietnamese.  A surprise if you will.

They were incredible!  Vietnamese Scotch eggs-egg covered in sausage covered in a cereal like topping and fried and served with the most ridiculously lip smacking chili sauce.  Winning.

 We also got fish/chicken and rice.  The fish/chicken was a sausagey thing- not what we expected, but good nonetheless, and again with a ridiculous sauce.  We also got chili tofu that was pretty good too. 
 Paul loved it.

And we love each other.  Aw. 
 We loved our breakfast buffet too.

 We spent a lot of time at the pool.And loved it too.
 And eventually wandered into town for a walk around...
 ...and some awesome Vietnamese coffee....
...and street waffles!
And finally wine.
We went to the top of the Sheraton on Csilla and Ian's suggestion and it was amazing.  I don't remember how high it was, but you could see how shockingly big HCMC is.  It just kept going.  Thankfully the drinks were better than the Rex. 
 Paul liked the tongue chair
Next was happy hour at a tapas place.  
 Tuna salad and pan con ham.  Yum.
Loving my Spanish wine.
 We also found this great Vietnamese place with a decent wine list which I didn't think possible after being served brown wine in the backpacker area.  I told the waitress the wine was waaaay off, to which she said no, I just opened it.  She brought the box out- problem #1- and it was from the 2009 vintage.  Approximately 4 years off...
 If you go to HCMC, check it out.
Lemongrass, cucumber, gin cocktail.

We wrapped our bar crawl up with some sushi and skewers.

 A final big breakfast.
 And a final bahn mi.
 Goodbye gorgeous, we'll miss you
Luckily there was a lounge at the airport with horrible wine....

And food.  Yum, chicken thing.

And now we're back soaking in all the Hong Kong glory until April, and then it's Bali, baby.