16 April 2014

  • Anantara Riverside Resort

    The middle of April marks the arrival of the year’s hottest days in Thailand. It also marks the start of the Thai new year, a festival known as Songkhran. A few million of Bangkok’s residents escape the city, leaving either for a holiday out of town or returning to their home province to spend time with family.

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    Many of us Bangkok residents stay in town to enjoy our city at half its normal capacity. I took the opportunity for a one-night “staycation” on the Thonburi side of the river at the Anantara Riverside Resort.

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    The Anantara, owned and operated by Minor International, a Thai based multinational, is not the newest riverfront property, but it is well-maintained and just far enough downstream from the heart of the city, to truly feel like an escape from the hustle and bustle. At the heart of the complex is a large pool, which was quite busy with sunbathers and water-splashers of all ages.

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    The hotel’s lush gardens are very tranquil. One of the nice aspects of it being an older resort is that the landscaping has a volume that cannot be easily achieved by newer properties. Everywhere you look, both inside and outside the buildings, you see greenery.

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    As the resort’s name implies, it is located directly on the river. There is a restaurant and a bar that lie adjacent to the water and the hotel’s private pier offers ferry service to the pier upriver that is near the BTS Skytrain station. The ferry also runs across the river to Asiatique, the two-year old outdoor night market and entertainment center.

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    The rooms are nicely furnished in a contemporary but slightly tropical style. We upgraded to a riverfront room that was very comfortable. There isn’t that much to see on the river besides barges slowly making their way up- and downstream, but it is a nice setting.

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    Public places in the hotel are tasteful and contemporary, with lots of natural light. There are several “mini lobbies” where you can find a nice place to sit with a book or just absorb the atmosphere.

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    We ate a sumptuous Sunday brunch at Trader Vic’s, the “tiki tiki” themed restaurant that features just about every type of food imaginable, including a wide variety of fresh seafood.

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    We also had a nice breakfast the following morning at the Marketplace restaurant, which spills outdoors onto a patio overlooking the river. All the food was good and the staff was very friendly.

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    Most of our day was spent by the pool, although we hid beneath umbrellas and in the shade of a large tree. As evening came, a cultural program was presented poolside with young ladies in traditional Thai costumes dancing and lighting the torches around the pool.

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    A man dressed as Hanuman, the mythical white monkey in the Ramakien, the Thai version of the classic Hindu epic called the Ramayana, performed around the pool to the beat of a drummer. He attracted many young followers who tried to catch his tail and also copied his poses.

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    In the evening, there is another classical performance held by torch light for the diners as the Marketplace restaurant. While I suppose you could quibble over whether guests really learn much from this minimal amount of exposure to culture, it surely creates a memorable impression for them.

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    The resort also offers cruises aboard converted teak rice barges. These cruises, one of which I did several years ago, can be just a daytime excursion, a dinner cruise, or a two-night trip to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya and back.

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    All in all, the Anantara Riverside Resort proved to be an ideal place for us to get away from the city for a night. If we had children, it would be even more well-suited for us as there are many activities geared to families.

     

12 April 2014

  • Casa Lapin x49

    Today is the start of a four-day weekend for the Songkhran holiday (aka Thai New Year). Tawn took me to a cute little place he had been wanting to try, the Sukhumvit Soi 49 branch of Casa Lapin.

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    This chic coffee chain (some might say “hip”) is tucked away behind Paste, a currently trendy restaurant across from Samitivej Hospital.

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    Owned by architect and coffee lover Surapan Tanta, Casa Lapin (“rabbit house”) also has branches on Soi Thong Lor and Soi Ari. The fact that the place is owned by an architect isn’t surprising, as the interior is inviting and thoughtfully designed.

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    The spacious setting makes effective use of the narrow footprint of the shophouse it occupies. It has a warm feeling that encourages you to hang out.

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    Coffee is offered in a variety of ways – drip, French press, espresso, siphon – and is tasty. A limited selection of foods is available – I had a container of cornflakes with dried fruits and cashew nuts added, kind of a cornflake muesli.

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    The selection of pastries was nice, too, and make for a tasty treat. The ham and cheese roll was flakey and delicate, a great pleasure to eat. The almond croissant was also nice.

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    While it would be nice if they added some more food selections – quiche and salads, maybe? – Casa Lapin x49 is a pleasant place to hang out. One more sophisticated but affordable brunch option in a city in which such places have long been a rarity.

     

10 April 2014

  • First Trip to Pattaya

    After having lived in Bangkok more than eight years, I am greeted by expressions of surprise when I tell people that I have never been to Pattaya, the famous beach resort town just a two hour drive southeast of the Thai capital city. Well, I can no longer truthfully earn those expressions of surprise because I finally made my first trip to Pattaya last month.

    Why didn’t I ever visit Pattaya? Well, there was an image I held in my head of a city that was a sleazy and crowded tourist trap with a nice beach, questionable water quality, and even more questionable businesses operating until the wee hours of the night.

    It turns out, that image was pretty accurate. Sure, there might be corners of Pattaya that are reasonably nice (someone told me Jomtien Beach), but the main section of town where I was staying for work was exactly as I had expected it.

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    The hotel I stayed in, the Hilton, was gorgeous, with an infinity pool and lounge that offers a breathtaking view of the sunset. But even up on the 29th floor with very heavy balcony doors with thick triple-pane glass, I could hear the music amplified from the surrounding entertainment venues and it didn’t take long until I had reached my fill of seeing bright red rotund foreigners accompanied by barely legal (or maybe not legal at all) tiny brown girls or boys a quarter of their age and a fifth of their size.

    The work experience was lovely – a two-day leadership development workshop for a multinational company – but I am comfortable that I can check Pattaya off the “to-visit” list and add it to the “no need to return” list instead.

     

29 March 2014

  • Skyline View of Bangkok

    A week ago, a couple we know was in town from Chicago. They had a twenty-four hour layover on a cruise making its way from Singapore to Hong Kong. We met them for drinks at the rooftop bar on the Marriott Sukhumvit Hotel.

    The hotel opened less than a year ago and is only a few blocks from our house. I had never been there but was amazed at how spectacular the views are – the roof affords a full 360-degree view of the city.

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    This first view is looking to the east and southeast along Sukhumvit Road. You can see the BTS Skytrain running along the road and Ekkamai station is just blocked by the red condo building, located between the Gateway Mall (also red) and the temple complex. That makes for an interesting contrast, no?

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    This photo picks up from where the previous one leaves off, looking from the southeast to the west. You can see that we are actually not very far from the Chao Phraya River and the port area – if you look really closely, you can see their cruise ship docked. You will notice that the main part of the city is to the west, where the concentration of high rises is much denser.

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    This picture continues from the far end of the bar in the previous picture. It looks from the west to the north and covers the entire Thong Lor neighborhood where I live. The BTS Skytrain station is on the left and you can see the line running into town along Sukhumvit Road. This neighborhood is more residential with lots of condominium towers, restaurants, and shops.

    One thing that really amazes me about Bangkok, compared with many cities, is that there are high rise buildings all over the place with no real defined “centers” for the city. On one level, I think it makes the skyline a bit bland as there is no focal point. But at the same time, maybe being so spread out saves us from all having to commute to just one area. Who knows?

     

9 March 2014

  • Food in Bangkok: Karmakamet Diner

    Hot new “must try” restaurants in Bangkok are like dandelions: they pop up frequently but don’t last long. One recent flowery addition to the local dining scene, Karmakamet Diner, stands a chance at staying around, at least if their brunch is any indication.

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    Karmakamet is a local brand specializing in high-quality and beautifully packaged perfumes, aromatics, and candles. They started with a small shop at Chatuchak Market and grew slowly. Eventually, a small tea shop opened at Central World Plaza and then not that long ago a cafe opened in Silom.

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    In the last few months, they have opened their first full-blown restaurant in a stylish converted warehouse tucked just behind Emporium’s second car park structure. The building resembles a greenhouse-cum-factory with views of the pretty garden through windows glazed to keep the sunlight from being unbearable.

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    The interior space is richly designed with lots of vintage-looking details. Most of the dandelion restaurants in Bangkok also feature fetching interiors, but Karmakamet Diner seems to have been more thoughtfully designed than most. It really is a pleasant space with interesting things to notice whichever direction you look.

    Of course, my primary concern in any restaurant is the food. While I haven’t been there for dinner yet, I have had weekend brunch there three times over the past six weeks. Each time the food quality was consistent, the presentation attractive, and while the dishes are relatively pricey, I find them a fair value given the quality, portion size, and beautiful setting. Let’s take a look at what I tried – rest assured I dined with other people and didn’t eat all of this food myself!

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    Home made granola with fresh fruits and yogurt. Tasty, although it is granola so I’m not sure that I can expect anything amazing.

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    The crab-avocado sandwich has a spicy truffle mayonnaise, rocket, hard boiled egg, and tomato confit. This was a tasty sandwich although the use of plain thick-cut white bread was a bit of a letdown. Something whole grain would have been nicer.

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    Panini with roasted vegetables, melted cheese, pesto, and a ridiculously tasty portion of ratatouille. A pretty simple dish but well-executed. The choice of bread was very good.

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    The croque madame was one of the highlights. Layered buttered toast with Gruyere cheese, ham, bacon, and sous-vide egg, topped with melted Mozzarella. It is every bit as rich and decadent as it sounds. Perhaps not for the high of cholesterol!

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    A pasta dish featuring capellini with cod roe and garlic. This was a nice dish, pleasantly salty from the roe. There was also a very spicy crab pasta (not pictured) that was enjoyable and, true to its promise, very spicy.

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    Penne with N’Duja, an Italian spicy sausage that seems to be quite the favored ingredient here in Bangkok these days, along with Burrata cheese. The sauce was really tasty, though, and the pasta was properly cooked.

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    Eggs Benedict – available with either ham or smoked salmon, or with salmon patties as a substitute for the English muffins. I tried the ham and the salmon patty versions and enjoyed both. The eggs were perfectly cooked with firm whites and liquid yolks. The Hollandaise sauce is smooth and velvety although just a bit more tart than I like. There is a careful balance to achieve with the acidity, maybe a matter of preference more than anything else.

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    The “full breakfast” features just about everything you would consider to be a breakfast food, plus a bit of mixed greens salad. It is a huge portion and makes you glad that food is generally served family style here in Thailand. As a side note, food at Karmakamet Diner did come out family style in a hodge-potch manner. Diners ordering individual plates be forewarned!

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    The so-called “can’t resist pancake” – the pancake is buried under duck confit, sautéed potatoes, crisp bacon, and sour cream served with a side of maple syrup. My first reaction (before taking a bite) was “what the heck is this mess?” After I tried it, all was forgiven. The pancake is really just there to absorb all the tasty flavors from the bacon, duck, and syrup.

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    For dessert, we shared a massive slice of French toast surrounded with fresh fruits and topped with an orange sauce and maple syrup. Shared among four or six people, it is just the right amount of sweet with which to conclude the meal.

    Service was generally attentive and responsive. One thing that I greatly appreciate is that the kitchen properly warms the plates before putting food on them. Especially for dishes like Eggs Benedict, a cool or even room-temperature plate will cause the sauce to quickly form an unappealing skin. The plates were warm, almost hot, to the touch. Bonus points for attention to that detail.

    Without having tried the dinner menu, I’m not yet sure if Karmakamet Diner is just another pretty dandelion restaurant, soon to fade with the changing trends. But if brunch is any indication, I think they may blossom into something much more lasting and substantial.

     

2 February 2014

  • Burgers in Bangkok: Daniel Thaiger

    Bangkok is a street food city. It is no exaggeration to say that there are tens of thousands of street food vendors. And yet the opening last year of Daniel Thaiger, a street food vendor usually found on Sukhumvit Soi 38, created a niche in an otherwise crowded market by selling American style hamburgers.

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    Soi 38 is listed in pretty much every tourist guide book as one of the go-to places for street food in Bangkok. Located in the upscale middle stretch of Sukhumvit Road and adjacent to a BTS Skytrain station (Thong Lo), it is extremely easy to access. As the sun lowers on the horizon, street food vendors start setting up and most of them continue to serve until well after midnight. Because of its popularity, it is also crowded with foreigners and most restaurants have menus available in many languages. The food remains top-notch, though, despite no longer being a secret known only to locals.

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    About forty meters into the soi, just past all the street vendors selling the usual Thai foods (congee, fried noodles, soup noodles, satay, sticky rice and mangoes, etc.), you will find the small Daniel Thaiger truck, alternating sides depending on the day of the week. A crowd, many of them looking suspiciously like hipsters, fills the sidewalk around the truck and seating is always a challenge. Diners are not just foreigners, though. A surprising number of Thais join the queue.

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    One half of the couple behind Daniel Thaiger – Honey, pictured above in black with glasses – is the front of the house. She greets, takes orders, makes sure the few tables and chairs are kept clean, and checks to make sure you are satisfied with your meal. Which you are likely to be.

    2014-01-31 05The other half of the team, Mark, mans the gas-powered griddle and oversees the production of about 140 hamburgers a night. A native Angelino (meaning he’s from Los Angeles, for those of you unfamiliar with the term), Mark’s concept of “hamburger” is definitely and thankfully shaped by the In-n-Out burger chain. Their focus – and his, too – is on quality, fresh ingredients. Mark hand-forms the patties each day and makes sure to check with his diners, asking how the food is and seeking their suggestions and ideas.

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    The menu is very simple: plain burger (beef or pork), bacon and cheese burger, a pork-and-oat burger, grilled cheese, and tuna melt. When parked on Soi 38, they are unable to make fries due to not having access to electricity. But the truck also sells chips and bottled beverages. Above, is a two-patty beef burger with bacon and cheese. I always order medium-rare, which I think compliments the flavor of the high-quality imported beef. The fact that your burger is cooked to your desired level of doneness shows an attention to detail missing at most burger restaurants in town.

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    With the truck open five days a week (closed Sunday and Monday), every few days Mark will throw a special on the menu. This evening it was a jalapeño mac-and-cheeseburger, which includes a nice little serving of spicy mac-and-cheese on top of the burger. This is an awesome combination. I’ve also tried and enjoyed the chili cheeseburger.

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    Collaborating with a local producer of fine meats, they also offered a pastrami burger. Tasty, although the flavor of the pastrami gets lost in the beefiness of the burger. All in all, though, the hamburgers are top-notch. Not only the best in Bangkok, but perhaps the best I’ve had anywhere. They certainly satisfy my craving for In-n-Out.

    The truck is usually open by about 5:30 and it is common for items to start running out by 8:00 and for Mark and Honey to shut down by 9:00. Follow them on Facebook for daily specials.

26 January 2014

  • Starting Week Four

    Tomorrow morning marks the start of my fourth week of full-time employment. After nearly a year of freelancing, I’m extremely happy with how the new job is developing. Since I had done some work for the company in the tailing months of the old year, I already knew some of the people and projects I am working with.

    At the same time, they haven’t been shy about adding more responsibilities to my plate, including three major clients! As my mentor explained when we discussed the company’s view on work-life balance: over the long term, it is definitely a marathon and you need to pace yourself. But for the first six to twelve months, you had better sprint.

    That’s the case with all new jobs, right? Work hard to prove yourself and compensate for your learning curve.

    This past week the CEO sat down with me to lay out her vision of where I will be in the next two years as well as what she expects from me over my first ninety days. She’s one of the most respected leaders of her field, HR development and executive coaching, so it was exciting to hear that she has some very specific ideas about how I will fit into the company’s strategy.

    Of course, when you are hearing this directly from the CEO, it creates a pretty high bar over which to jump!

    All things considered, though, I’m having a blast. The experience reinforces for me that I stayed in my old job a few years too long and was stagnating rather than growing. I’m thankful, really, that they decided to give me the ultimatum of either moving back to the US or being let go. It was a decision that was long overdue.

    The only downside? Now that I’m working so much, my time for blogging is diminished. I’m committed to doing it as often as possible, though, so stay tuned.

     

18 January 2014

  • Food in Hong Kong: Little Bao

    The final meal we had in Hong Kong over the New Year’s holiday was the most exciting and most memorable: a visit to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese burger bar called Little Bao.

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    Located at the quiet end of Staunton Street in Central, a short walk from the escalator, Little Bao occupies a tiny storefront – maybe two dozen seats – with a large neon sign on the exterior. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations so we arrived about 6:30 on a weekday and faced an estimated wait of one hour. The friendly woman taking names suggested some nearby watering holes and offered to call when our table was ready, despite the fact that my phone number was overseas.

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    In about fifty minutes, my phone rang and she let us know we could finish up our drinks and head back to the restaurant. We scored four prime seats, nestled along the counter facing the kitchen. (A second counter is placed along the wall to the left.) This afforded us a great view of the action. Adam, a friendly fellow, was running the front of the house and despite the hectic operation, had time to walk us through the menu and answer questions.

    Little Bao has a short wine list with excellent selections from the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to there being no duties on wine imports in Hong Kong, these were good values and complemented the food very well.

    The menu is divided into two sections. The first features baos - steamed buns filled hamburger-style with different ingredients – that are not intended for sharing. They have a strict “no cutting” policy although we did share our baos, each taking a bite and passing them unhygienically amongst our friends. The other part of the menu are dishes designed for sharing. With four people, we ordered one of nearly everything on the menu.

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    The first dish to arrive was the orange chicken – fried chicken with salty egg yolk, a honey glaze, and orange zest. The salty egg yolk, a common but sometimes overpowering ingredient in Chinese cuisine, elevated the fried chicken to another level. You had a nice balance of sweet, salty, and savory with the citrus zest cutting through to unite the flavors.

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    These short-rib pan fried dumplings (essentially gyoza) were filled with slow-braised beef short rib that was tender and rich, and served on a bed of celeriac coleslaw. It was like a pleasant collision of a plate of barbecue beef brisket and coleslaw with a Chinese take-out container filled with potstickers.

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    The next dish was clams with bacon and potato, served in a white pepper miso broth with toasted miso-butter baos. The clams were tender and sweet and the broth was an interesting study in complementary flavors: the umami that comes from the miso and the subtle heat of white pepper.

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    As they had been recommended by many reviewers, we also ordered the LB fries, served with a side of roasted tomato sambal and kewpie mayo. There’s a spray of lime on the fries but there must be something else – cocaine, perhaps? – that makes these batons of fried potatoes so very addictive.

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    Directly in front of us was the bao preparation station. There are only four bao on the menu plus one special. We ordered all of them except for the regular chicken bao. Each bao was about four to five bites – about the size of a modest (but very vertical) hamburger. I can understand why they have a no-cutting policy: ingredients would fall out and you would lose out on the flavor gestalt of the experience.

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    If I’m not mistaken, from left to right the bao pictures are the fish tempura (with tamarind palm sugar glaze and pickled lemongrass fennel salad), the pork belly (slow braised with lek and shiso red onion salad, sesame dressing, and hoisin ketchup), the Sloppy Chan (Taiwanese braised shitake tempeh, truffle mayo, sweet pickled daikon, and fried shallot), the pork belly again, and the special of the day, a spicy fried chicken bao.

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    In the interest of giving you a closer look, here is the special, the spicy fried chicken with garlic black bean mayo and scallion coleslaw. All of the baos were tasty and they all succeed for the same reason: there aren’t too many ingredients, but enough to make the dish interesting. There are different textures and flavors and the soft but toasted bao bun absorbs some of the sauce so it isn’t just a neutral carrier for the ingredients but very much a part of the dish.

    The food, which is excellent, is only a part of what makes Little Bao such a pleasant dining experience. There is a really good energy to the place. Part of this is because it is small and crowded, but in a way that feels intimate instead of cramped. Part of it is because there is great music, but at a volume low enough that you can still hear conversations with fellow diners. But the biggest part of the good energy is that you can tell that the staff seems to really love what they are doing and they enjoy working with each other.

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    From what I’ve read, credit for that goes to the chef May Chow (pictured above). With a Canadian and Hong Kong background by way of the United States, she has built a team that is chosen for attitude rather than experience, treated well, and motivated based on their own interests. (Read more about that here.) I had a chance to chat with her for a few minutes and was very impressed with the way she thinks about food and running a restaurant. Thanks to a quick response to one of my Instagram photos, I also discovered that we have a common chef friend here in Bangkok: Jess Barnes of Opposite Mess Hall. In-depth profile of May at SassyHongKong.com here.

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    Just as we were reaching that point of satiation, dessert arrived. There is only one dessert on the menu and that’s okay because that one dessert is so perfect, there is no need for anything else! It is an ice cream sandwich made with deep-fried bao, green tea ice cream, and a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. When I write that it is “so perfect,” I mean that it achieves a spectacular balance of flavors and textures that is satisfying and made for the ideal end to this meal.

    You can probably tell that I enjoyed the meal, huh?

    Anyhow, if you are in Hong Kong, I would strongly recommend a visit to Little Bao. Come with one or two other people so you can share but not with a large group otherwise you will never get seated. Come prepared to wait a bit – bring a book or go to one of the nearby bars for a drink. Most importantly, come with an appetite, because you’ll need it.

     

14 January 2014

  • Food in Hong Kong: Peking Garden

    The New Year’s trip to Hong Kong included a return visit to Peking Garden, one of the nice restaurants that are part of the Maxim Group. I’ve enjoyed dining there many times over the years and was glad to see that everything is still up to the standards I remembered. As an added bonus, we were joined by an ex-Xangan and his partner, who were still in town.

    P.S. – I’m not still in Hong Kong; just takes me a while to get all the pictures posted and entries written!

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    We enjoyed a set lunch for six that worked out to about US$40 per person, if memory serves. May sound expensive for a lunch but as you will see, it was quite a lunch. Plus, the setting and service are very nice. As we arrived, pickled vegetables and tofu were set out for us to munch on as we ordered.

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    The first dish of the set was jellyfish, a traditional Chinese delicacy. For some reason, the menu’s English description of this was “sea blubber,” which of course is as inaccurate as it is unappetizing! If you haven’t had it, the dish is served cold and the texture is slightly crunchy with a pleasant, slightly salty taste. An unusual texture if you haven’t had it but very agreeable.

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    The next dish featured pork spareribs, braised and served in a rich gravy. These were nice and tender so eating them with chopsticks was easy.

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    The next dish was a sweet and spicy prawn dish. You can’t tell the scale from this picture, but these were very generously sized prawns, very fresh and of excellent quality. Normally, prawns in many restaurants are basically just large shrimp. These were genuine prawns and such a pleasure to eat.

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    The star of the meal (and a dish for which the restaurant is famous) was the Peking Duck. It was presented at the table for photos and then taken to a nearby cart where a waiter expertly whittled off the skin into slices. Unlike some restaurants, Peking Garden also includes a layer of meat with the skin, which I very much like.

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    At many restaurants, the meat would be served on a platter along with a stack of pancakes (crepes) and garnishes. Instead, the servers at Peking Garden prepare the pancakes for you, each with some hoisin sauce, cucumbers, green onions, and a piece of the crispy-juicy-fatty duck skin. Little packets of heaven! Notice the gorgeous tableware, too.

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    The final main dish was fried white fish in a sweet and sour sauce. The fish was also very fresh and of good quality. Just a pleasant was to wind down the meal.

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    Some stir-fried greens provided some needed roughage!

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    And dessert was a simple plate of fresh fruit. In general, Chinese meals don’t tend to have a lot of dessert. If not fruit, it is a simple dish that is usually not super sweet. Big chocolate lava cake would be out of place. Something that I really appreciate about Chinese food is its ability to achieve such nice balance.

    Overall, the meal was a success on all levels: food, service, decor, company, etc. Peking Garden will remain on my to-visit list.

     

13 January 2014

  • Food in Hong Kong: Shanghai Min

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    While in Hong Kong, we took a break from Cantonese food to have some Shanghainese cuisine, dining at Shanghai Min on the 11th floor of Times Square.

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    This beautiful restaurant has a swanky interior with tastefully embroidered tablecloths and elegant decorative touches.

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    Our meal began with the “signature pan-fried crispy pork soup buns” or sheng jiang bao. These were good but not quite as good as the ones we had in Shanghai back in November 2012. This version felt like they had been made a bit before and sat for a while – the inside of the dough was a little gummy from the moisture of the filling.

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    Next arrived a crispy scallion sesame cake, a carb fest that was much less heavy than you might imagine.

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    Another classic was the spicy tofu with minced pork. This is almost more of a Hunan style dish, to my mind. It was tasty, though, spicy but not unbearably so.

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    The standout was the “straw-tied pork belly” with Chinese steamed buns. Not only was the pork belly exceedingly tender but the neatly cut squares wrapped with straw (not edible) was pleasing to look at.

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    So nice that it deserves a second shot. If only I had wiped that drip of sauce off the plate before taking the picture!

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    Final dish was an interesting stir fry of small disks made from rice cake (like Japanese mochi) called chao nian gao. It is braised with scallions and pork in a savory sauce.

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    Braised Shanghai cabbage (bok choy, I think) with shredded bean curd sheets and mushrooms. The sheets have the texture of very thin, fresh pasta. A nice clean finish to the meal.

    Overall, I was very pleased with Shanghai Min. I first ate there several years ago and it is still every bit as enjoyable. If you are looking for a break from Cantonese cuisine, this is a worthwhile place to visit.

     

12 January 2014

  • Tim Ho Wan at Olympian 2

    One of my regular stops in Hong Kong is dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. The Michelin star recognized restaurant has opened several branches in the past few years and the original hole-in-the-wall Mongkok branch closed last year due to rent increases. On the most recent visit, we dined at the newest Tim Ho Wan branch at the Olympian 2 complex in Kowloon.

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    The new location is a bit of a challenge to find, as it is an exterior restaurant and so you enter the interior of the mall from the MTR system and then have to find your way outside and around the building. Not too difficult, though.

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    The interior of this branch is larger and brighter than any of the others, which means that the wait (which can be an hour or more at some locations like the Airport Express station at IFC) is much more reasonable. The four of us were seated in about fifteen minutes. The other benefit of the bright lighting is that pictures can much more easily be taken!

    Speaking of which…

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    On the left are steamed pork spareribs with black bean sauce. On the right are steamed beancurd skin rolls filled with meat and vegetables.

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    On the left is steamed rice with chicken and Chinese sausage. On the right are pan-fried daikon radish cakes.

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    On the left are the famous baked buns with barbecue pork – these I could eat several orders of. On the right are deep fried glutinous rice dumplings filled with minced meat. Hard to tell from the outside but both were filled with lots of delicious food.

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    On the left is an interesting dish: quail eggs in dumpling wrappers! On the right is glutinous rice wrapped in a typical “bao” bread and steamed.

    I didn’t take pictures of everything because dim sum just doesn’t photograph all that well. But we found the food to still be of a very high quality both in terms of ingredients and preparation. Dishes arrived quickly and service was efficient, if not particularly friendly.

    In the future, this is the location I’ll return to for great dim sum while in Hong Kong.

     

  • Xanga Meet Up Dinner at Island Tang

    Over the new year’s holiday we were in Hong Kong, in part to take part in the second annual Xanga meet-up or, more accurately, the Xanga alumni meet-up. This year’s group was roughly the same as last year’s and once again a nice venue was chosen for dinner: Island Tang.
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    Island Tang’s owner is Sir David Tang (of the Shanghai Tang retail brand) whose restaurants include China Club, which I wrote about two days ago. The interior of the restaurant is every bit as elegant as China Club but many degrees subtler. As Time Out Hong Kong described it, Island Tang is Hong Kong of the 1940s compared to China Club’s Shanghai of the 1920s.

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    In fact, it isn’t too much to describe the space as gorgeous. There was tremendous attention to detail in everything from decor to menu design to place settings. It felt elegant from the very start.

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    The menu is primarily Cantonese food. The pictures here are a selection of what we ordered, although not everything. Above is the wok-fried jumbo garoupa fillets with Hangzhou pepper, garlic, and preserved black beans. Tasty dish although the fish was a bit overwhelmed by all the other flavors.

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    A traditional braised duck with “eight treasures” – additional ingredients which can vary by recipe but in this case included shrimp, scallops, and mushrooms among other things. Very tasty dish.

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    We tried several different soups, most of which were similar to what I showed from China Club. One unique offering was a casserole boiled bean curd (tofu) stuffed with minced pork and mushroom. This was a very nice, subtle dish.

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    One of the non-Cantonese dishes, a very tasty pan-fried Welsh lamb belly seasons with cumin. The skin was crispy, the fat was properly rendered, and the cumin gave it an earthy flavor that was delightful.

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    Quite an interesting dish was the wok-fried papaya with honey bean and fresh lily bulb. Most of the time in Thai cooking, we use green papaya, so I was caught a bit off guard to find ripe papaya used in this stir-fry. The most interesting ingredient was the lily bulb, something I don’t think I’ve had before. The combination was light and flavorful.

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    For some more vegetables, we had wok-fried kale with crushed ginger and rice wine. A simple dish, well executed.

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    We ordered a variety of chilled, pudding-like deserts that were tasty but did not photograph well. The only item I did photograph were these glutinous rice and sesame balls, which thankfully weren’t as oily as I had expected.

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    A final shot of the dining room. We started eating at 8:30 and by the time we left, were pretty much the last diners. These ladies left before us.

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    The obligatory shot of the current and former Xangans plus four non-blogger guests. Will let you figure out who is who.

4 January 2014

  • New Year’s Eve at China Club in Hong Kong

    New Year’s Eve was spent at the China Club, a retro-chic private club in Hong Kong, for music from the early 1900s, atmosphere from all over the place, and food that was mostly Cantonese.

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    Tawn and I dressed to the nines. We didn’t realize that the theme for the night was for Great Gastby-ish dress, otherwise we would have worn some vintage crushed velvet dinner jackets. I’m proud that I achieved one of my 2013 resolutions: being able to tie my own bow tie without watching the YouTube video to guide me. Success!

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    The interior of the club, which occupies the top three floors of the old Bank of China building, has the feel of a Chinese tea house but with loads of contemporary art on the walls. It was a happening place with lots of young professionals crowding the tables. Someone needs to remind these young men that gentlemen do not remove their jackets at the dinner table.

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    The menu is mostly Chinese, with an emphasis on Cantonese cuisine, the style indigenous to Hong Kong. We did order a few variations, though. Appetizers began with these deep fried prawns with foie gras, wrapped in tofu sheets, which featured large, fresh prawn meat.

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    Soups are usually available per-person, that way everyone can order what they want. One of our friends had this crab claw meat (one perfect, unbroken piece) served in a lovely consommé broth with vegetables.

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    The other friend and Tawn both ordered the sweet and sour soup, a classic that was very nicely done. (Yes, I tried a bite of everything!)

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    I tried one of the special soups, which was braised beef brisket in hand-pulled noodles. The brisket was nicely tender and flavorful while the noodles had a pleasant “al dente” texture.

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    One of the recommended dishes was the charsiu, or roasted, honey-glazed pork belly. This staple of Cantonese cuisine is succulent and, when done well, is the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The chef did a good job with this and another plate would have been welcome.

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    This is a Szechuan style dish: sautéed diced chicken with garlic, star anise, chilies, and spring onion. It isn’t as hot as you might imagine and was one of my favorite dishes.

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    For variety, I ordered another Szechuan dish: dan dan noodles. This dish has a spicy chili sauce made with preserved vegetables and minced pork served over noodles. This particular version had a lot more sauce than usual and the sauce had less of the tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorns than I have experienced in other versions. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable.

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    Sautéed lotus root, sweet peas, water chestnuts, and various fungi served in a nest made from deep fried taro root. This was a wonderful example of the clean flavors, simple preparation, and elegant presentation of Cantonese cuisine. Of course, it can also be heavy and oily when poorly done.

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    I ordered this dish as an appetizer and it arrived near the end of the meal. Familiar to people who dine at Vietnamese restaurants, it is chopped shrimp made into a paste, formed around sugar cane, and deep fried. Always tasty.

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    We concluded the meal with some fried rice, this one a mixture of different meats and vegetables. As with most Chinese banquets (although this meal was ordered a la carte), the rice is served last so that you do not fill up on it during the meal.

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    For dessert, we shared a few items that didn’t photograph well plus these lovely egg custard tarts. With a very flakey and not-too-oily crust, the tarts were a nice conclusion to the meal.

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    We also inexplicably received fortune cookies. I say “inexplicably” because these are an American invention and not authentic in the least. To top it off, there seems to be a trend of fortune cookies increasingly reading like “advice” cookies. As one Chinese friend pointed out, the quality of writing must be suffering because the fortunes are now outsourced to a factory in China. Ha!

    All in all, China Club was a good meal and a fun place to dine on New Year’s Eve. For more info, here’s their website. Note that the club is members-only so to go, a member needs to make reservations for you.

     

29 December 2013

  • Christmas in Mae Sot

    With just a few days left before I begin my new job, I took the opportunity to join a group of friends from Project LOVE Asia for four nights of volunteering in Mae Sot, a town along the Thai-Myanmar border. Our job was to help bring Christmas to the children at the Heavenly Home orphanage and the young adults at the Love & Care learning center.

    Let me share some pictures and some brief notes about the experience.

    Day 1

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    The first day, we went to a “day care” that is run by the orphanage. Located a few miles away in the midst of rice paddies, the structure is just a shack and a broad roof over a packed-dirt floor. Volunteers provide free lunch and basic education for the children of itinerant farmers and laborers four days a week.

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    Our group of volunteers (who are not the normal day-to-day volunteers at the day care) played games with the children and then before lunch, gave them a lesson in proper hand-washing technique including teaching them the “hand washing song”.

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    Given that these children mostly speak Burmese or a local dialect based on their ethnic group (mostly Shan or Karen), I’m not sure they learned the song. But hopefully the basic lesson of the importance of good hand-washing was learned.

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    This day for lunch, the children had rice with chicken and curry. Most of the time, the orphanage cannot afford to feed them meat so today’s lunch was a special treat. The children’s parents, who are dirt-poor, do not have to pay for this day care. It is provided by donations to the orphanage.

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    In the afternoon, after finishing at the day care, our vans drove for nearly an hour over bumpy roads until we arrived at the middle of the provincial dump. There, we met families of illegal immigrants who earn a living sorting through the refuse and selling materials for recycling.

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    Their rickety shacks line the roads and their children, who are now able to receive some education thanks to a nearby school recently built by an NGO, were happy to see us and receive some Christmas treats.

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    That evening in the guest house while we were debriefing the day, the sound of Christmas carolers filled the air. A group of students from the Love & Care secondary school (which we would visit on Day 3) had come to sing us songs. I felt so bad for them as they had piled in the back of a pickup truck and driven 20 minutes in the chilly weather. It was a lovely surprise, though, and quite festive.

     

    Day 2

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    The next day we spent at the Heavenly Home orphanage, playing with the children, organizing games, bathing and feeding them, and singing songs.

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    This was a particularly rewarding experience because the children are used to visitors and are very eager to play with them. It wasn’t unusual to have four youngsters balanced on my knees with another two or three trying to climb up.

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    The founders of the orphanage, Thantzin and his wife Lily, are a Burmese couple who lived many years in Singapore. Unable to have their own children, they felt called by their faith to help the children of Burmese refugees and migrants in Thailand.

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    What started initially as a day care has expanded and they now care for more than 50 children whose parents have given them up as well as another dozen whose parents pick them up each evening.

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    While children can stay up to the age of 18, right now they only have children from the age of 3 months up to about 12 years old.

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    Our primary mission was to spread the spirit of Christmas so early on the evening of the 23rd, after the children had eaten their dinner and been bathed, dried, and dressed, they lined up for cake. We then went upstairs to sing songs and give gifts.

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    The happy family of Heavenly Home orphanage, crowded into the upstairs living area, which is also the girls’ bedroom. It was a chilly evening so everyone was bundled tight, happy at having such a fun evening.

     

    Day 3

    Our final full day was spent at Love & Care, a secondary learning center about 15 minutes outside of Mae Sot. Burmese migrants and refugees face a challenge: undocumented in Thailand, they cannot attend local public schools, but they education they may have received in Myanmar isn’t sufficient for meaningful work in Thailand. Love & Care is one of many learning centers (not “schools” as they don’t follow the curriculum of the Thai Ministry of Education) serving this group.

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    About 70 students live at the school, which boards all its students. They range in age from about 16-21 and many have already matriculated from secondary school in Myanmar. Love & Care offers grades 10-12 taught in Burmese, English, and Thai.

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    While there, I did interviews of several of the students and faculty. Their parents are almost uniformly farmers or laborers and one common thread is that none of them seem to be the oldest child. While I didn’t clarify why this is, I would guess that the oldest child is needed to help on the farm and it is only once you have several children that you can consider sending them for education.

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    We played many games with the students, mostly focused on team-building and other types of skills. After the games, we talked a bit about the lessons learned. A common theme among these students is that they came from different tribes – Karen, Shan, etc. – and it was at Love & Care that they first met people different from themselves and learned that people are all basically the same. Perhaps the most important lesson they have learned, considering they come from a place where deep-seeded animosity exists between different ethnic groups.

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    In the afternoon, we did an exercise where each student created a dream board, using paper, pens, old magazines, etc. The objective was to illustrate the dream they hold for their future. They then took turns sharing their dreams with each other. Most wanted to be doctors, nurses, teachers, or other professions that would enable them to return to their communities and help others. It is easy to imagine what a powerful impact these young people will have on the future of Myanmar.

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    In the evening, about half the children from Heavenly Home joined us and we had a large Christmas show. Different groups of students and children performed, gifts were given, and songs were sung. By the end of the day, many of the students had asked to connect with me on Facebook and I left with many new friends.

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    In the days after this trip, I’ve had several people say nice things about how generous I am, how nice it is that I did this trip, etc. In truth, it is the children and students who have been so generous and I have to admit that I’ve taken a great deal from the experience.

    Each visit to Mae Sot serves as a reminder that it takes precious little to be happy in life, and that so many people barely have that. Our common humanity binds us and there is great power in showing compassion and sharing love.

     

20 December 2013

  • How Greetings Spawn Humbugs

    Living outside the United States, I avoid being immersed in some of the silly, manufactured controversies that whip people into a talk radio-fueled frenzy. One of the big ones this time of year is the unbelievable anxiety some people get in over people saying “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

    Just the other day, a former schoolmate on Facebook posted how, with Hanukkah falling in November this year, there was no excuse for anyone not to say “Merry Christmas” because there are no other holidays.

    “New Year’s is no longer a holiday?” I helpfully replied.

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    There are many Christians who feel that their religion is under attack. I can understand why they might feel that way, although considering that Christianity continues to be a growing religion worldwide, I’m not sure the threat is real. But when someone wishes you a “happy holiday,” feeling in any way insulted or under attack seems to be a very un-Christian response. Let’s turn to the Bible to understand why.

    First, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When someone says “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” to you, they are conveying a charitable wish, one offered with no malice. In fact, they are potentially being considerate by respecting the fact that you may not be Christian. (Not always easy to tell from outward appearances alone.) Back to the Golden Rule: you would probably want people to be warm, charitable, and respectful towards you and that’s precisely the motivation of someone who wishes you a secular seasonal greeting.

    Second, Jesus admonished us to “turn the other cheek.” A secular seasonal greeting is rarely intended as an insult and certainly never causes any true injury. Follow Jesus’ teaching and move on. There are much worse insults than being given warm holiday wishes by someone. Jesus died for your sins, not because someone wished him “season’s greetings”.

    Third, Jesus teaches us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is considered one of the two greatest commandments, the other being to love God with all your heart. This teaching is about giving even when you are not receiving, about loving even when you are not loved. If someone wishes you a greeting that does not reflect your faith, surely your response should be a reflection of your faith. For a Christian, that means a response that is loving and giving, not one that is angry and spiteful.

    Whatever your faith, the end of the year (especially in the wintry northern hemisphere) is a special time. May it find you healthy, happy, and surrounded by loved ones, regardless of your faith.

     

15 December 2013

  • Weekend Lunch Now Served at Appia

    One of my favorite new restaurants of the past year is Appia, the Roman trattoria on Sukhumvit Soi 31. Now that evening operations at the nearly always-packed restaurant are running smoothly, owner Jarrett Wrisley and owner/chef Paolo Vitaletti have introduced a lunch menu. Based on my first visit this afternoon, I think I now have twice as many reasons to make regular visits to Appia.

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    The first thing I noticed upon arriving just before noon (the restaurant opens at 11:30 on Saturday and Sunday) is that the already welcoming dining room is even warmer and cozier with daylight streaming in the one wall of windows.  It would be very easy to just curl up in a banquette and spend the whole day there draining a few bottles from Appia’s thoughtful wine collection, grazing from lunch to afternoon snacks to dinner.

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    The lunch menu is largely different from the dinner menu although you will recognize them as relatives. For example, the succulent porchetta appears not as a stand-alone dish but as a sandwich with roasted peppers and homemade pickles. There are a variety of salads, sandwiches, pasta and grain dishes (these, too, do not completely overlap the dinner menu) and a handful of egg dishes.

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    With two of us dining, we had to restrain ourselves a bit while still trying a cross-section of the menu. We began with a roasted pumpkin salad, which is garnishes with rocket, pumpkin seeds, almond slivers, and pomegranate seeds, dressed with dijon mustard and honey. This salad was perfectly seasoned and the pumpkin was tender but not mushy, a texture that can be unappealing with a room-temperature salad.

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    We also tried the crab sandwich served with spicy aioli and provolone cheese on whole grain bread, served with a side of the homemade pickles. While the sandwich may not have looked like much, its pedestrian exterior hid a generous portion of fresh, sweet, large-lump crab meat. This sandwich along with a salad would make for a very satisfying meal.

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    The first of our two egg dishes was the uovo alla pizzaiola – two Parisi eggs (imported from Italy) baked in a vibrant tomato sauce topped with stringy fresh scamorza cheese. Served with some toast, this assertively seasoned dish verged on the hearty, even though it is vegetarian (albeit not vegan). Chef Paolo really coaxes a great deal of flavor out of just a handful of ingredients.

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    The second of our egg dishes was Appia’s take on Eggs Benedict: poached eggs served on corned beef, chicory, n’dujia sabayon (think spicy spreadable pork sausage Hollandaise sauce), over sourdough bread. This dish packed a punch! The bitterness of the chicory was cut by the saltiness of the beef and all of it was tamed by the n’dujia sabayon. The dish brimmed with umami.

    Prices are very reasonable for the quality of food, with sides and smaller dishes starting at around 140 baht and mains topping out at 380 with most in the 280-300 range. Since lunchtime dining has just been introduced, there isn’t yet a crowd, but I would imagine that before year’s end reservations will be advised.

     

12 December 2013

  • Painting Smiling Faces

    Catching up on the events of the past month or two, in late October I attended an annual Halloween party at the Mercy Center in the Bangkok neighborhood Khlong Toei. Mercy Center, founded by a Catholic priest who has been a longtime fixture in the surrounding slums, provides extracurricular activities and ongoing education for local children. The Halloween party is pulled together by several business owners associated with the American Chamber of Commerce.

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    This was the second time I volunteered and this year I scored the assignment of working the face-painting table. While we had lots of face paint, our tools were limited and the children had high expectations: Zombie! Dracula! Ghost! Butterfly!

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    I tried my best and next year will be sure to bring some proper makeup sponges (instead of just using the random foam sponges we had access to) and brushes. Still, it was a fun time and the 300 or so children seemed to really enjoy themselves.

     

9 December 2013

  • Kiki the One Day Dog

    “I have something important I want to talk to you about,” Tawn said with a look of seriousness. “I think we should get a dog.” Trying to be a more effective communicator than usual, I decided to listen instead of immediately listing the dozens of reasons why getting a dog was a bad idea. So I settled back into the couch and tried very hard to have an open mind.

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    The end result of the discussion was that we ended up getting a dog. Despite my misgivings – we live in a no-pets condo, and a small one at that; our schedules don’t allow much time for a dog; while I love dogs I don’t want to be responsible for one – I told Tawn that if he could address the concerns that I felt, we could get a dog.

    A week later, Tawn drove to a breeder across the river to pick up an 8-month old King Charles Cavalier. She had just been flown in from another breeder in Malaysia the night before and Tawn had been talking to the Thai breeder for a few weeks before asking me if we could get a dog.

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    I arrived home in the middle of the afternoon to find them in the bathroom: a sad, soaked pup shivering on the marble floor as Tawn tried to blow dry her hair. Even though she had never met me, she readily jumped into the relative safety of my arms. Her wet, floppy ears quickly soaked my shirt sleeves.

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    We sat on the patio for the next hour or so, the ceiling fan stirring a gentle breeze as I held the dog, whom we named Kiki, in a towel and tried to dry her fur. Her shaking stopped and she would doze for short intervals but quickly awoke at any movement or sound.

    After a trip to the local pet store to buy some supplies for Kiki, Tawn had to head out for an event. I had some cooking to do in preparation for a dinner the next day. Kiki sat in her basket for a while and then in her kennel, watching me as I cooked. Even though she could see me, she would frequently bark, calling for my attention.

    I would let her out and try to keep an eye on her as I cooked. Three times there were accidents on our carpet. Not being experienced caring for dogs, I quickly Googled for advice and tried to respond to the accidents without anger, instead carrying her to some newspapers on the patio whenever I though she might need to go.

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    Tawn returned home, excited at the prospect of a dog waiting for him. She still seemed a little timid, afraid perhaps that he would whip out the hair dryer once again. We put her in the kennel several times, leaving the room for  an increasing length of time. She would yip and yelp quite quickly and we were worried that the neighbors would be disturbed by the noise.

    Finally, when it was time for bed, I decided we should take some additional online advice: to help puppies adjust, place their kennel in the bedroom at night so they can sense that you are nearby. This seemed a reasonable step but about once every hour or so, Kiki would wake up and call for us. Finally, after the third time, Tawn took the kennel into the living room and stayed with her while I fell back asleep.

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    In the morning, I found him lying on the couch with Kiki in a basket nearby. With a voice filled with regret, Tawn told me that he had spent the night up with her. While doing so, he had evaluated his decision and said that he had probably miscalculated how much time and energy it would take to care for a new dog. He proposed that we call the breeder and return Kiki.

    Again trying to be a good communicator, I listened, acknowledged his points, and let him know that I would support him either way. If he wanted to keep Kiki, we would find a way to make it work. If he wanted to return her, I would understand that, too.

    In the end, we put Kiki in her basket and drove back to the breeder’s that morning. Kiki was subdued, probably from a combination of exhaustion and anxiety. Handing her back to the maid at the breeder’s house, I couldn’t hold back my tears.

    The next day, the breeder posted a picture of Kiki (whose real name is something fancy like Lady Penelope) sleeping peacefully with her sister, along with a comment about how happy she seemed to be to be back at home. That helped reassure Tawn that we had made the right decision.

    Looking back, I think it would have been possible to make Kiki a part of our lives. It would have taken a lot of work over several weeks, but it could have been done. But I also think that we made the best decision, because a dog (especially a lap dog) really requires time and attention. It isn’t fair to not be prepared to give them what they need to thrive.

     

4 December 2013

  • An Umami Birthday Dinner

    Trying to catch everyone up on my recent activities, in November I celebrated my birthday by cooking a dinner for some of my friends. One friend had recently remodeled his condo and was itching to have a dinner party to show off the new open-format kitchen. Never shy about messing up, err… cooking in someone else’s kitchen, I accepted his offer and started planning a meal around the theme of umami.

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    Umami is the fifth taste (after sweet, sour, salty, and bitter). A Japanese word, it describes the “savory,” “meaty,” or “fulfilling” quality. Umami is tasted through glutamates, a type of amino acid that is found in foods such as mushrooms, anchovies, fish sauce, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and MSG.

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    The appetizer course featured three umami-rich items: a Parmesan and wild mushroom custard, miso and bacon glazed eggplant, and whole grain toasts with avocado and soy-sauce dressed sardines. This was probably a wee bit ambitious as there ended up being so much food that this course was almost a meal in itself.

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    The “soup” course was a bit clever, if I say so myself. I borrowed a friend’s ice cream maker and turned a roasted tomato soup into a granita and served it with Parmesan sorbet on top. It really had all the flavors of a tomato soup (plus a little spicy as I added dried chilies) with cheese sprinkled on top, but it was frozen.

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    The main course was balsamic vinegar marinated roast chicken with green olives. This excellent choice of a marinade makes for rich, flavorful, and moist meat. Will definitely repeat this recipe.

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    Accompanying the main corse were garlic and black truffle infused mashed potatoes with more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

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    We concluded the meal with a salad course, a Caesar salad with homemade dressing. This is the first time I’ve made Caesar dressing from scratch and it is incredibly easy and really much better than from a bottle. Served with homemade croutons with truffle salt.

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    For dessert, I served an interesting Sicilian orange olive oil cake with homemade cardamom ice cream. The cake was interesting because it is made by quartering and boiling oranges (unpeeled) in three changes of water and then pureeing the oranges, rind and all, and incorporating it into the batter. The result is a moist, intensely flavored cake. The cardamom ice cream was an excellent compliment to the cake.

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    While there were some friends who weren’t present, the dinner itself was a success. I was very happy with the dishes and while I would probably not be as ambitious next time, I think many of the recipes are worth visiting again.

     

1 December 2013

  • Back

    It has been over a month since I last posted. No good excuse for my absence. Just a combination of being very busy with many things and also finding that ever since the announcement of the transition to Xanga 2.0, the community that made blogging here such a pleasure has largely eroded. It becomes a vicious cycle, of course, since blogging less and spending less time reading and commenting on others’ blogs only erodes the community further.

    A friend who pitched in $50 to help keep Xanga alive, just because he likes reading my blog, asked about my absence. I guess I do owe it to him to keep blogging, don’t it? Plus, I despite my frequent activity on Instagram and Facebook, those platforms don’t lend themselves to longer-form writing. I need to exercise the literary part of my brain more often, so I choose to increase the frequency of my blogging.

    There is a lot that has been going on the past few weeks. For starters, after being laid off in February from my job of 13 years, I finally secured a job offer. The new job, which I’ll talk about more in a future post, begins in January so I still have more than a month to fill before then. Still, it is a relief to know that a regular paycheck will soon be coming. Although I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of freelance, it isn’t the best decision for me right now, financially.

    There are a lot of other things that have been happened, too. I’ll share more in the next few days as I ease back into blogging. Don’t know if anyone is left out there, but if you are, I’m back!