Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Cake 2015

It's Christmas Eve here in the Seoul Patch, and I am enjoying one of the peninsula's holiday traditions, the Christmas cake. While nicely decorated, this one is less ornate than some others I've had over the years (links at bottom of post). It is a Choco-crunchy-saeng-creme cake (the saeng technically means 'fresh', but really means 'imitation').

I've always got mine from Tous les Jours or Paris Baguette, but as I mentioned a couple of posts down, the new bakery in the neighborhood is called Napoleon:

You can learn quite a lot about the Korean tradition of baking, Christmas, cakes, etc, and view previous cakes, all different, by clicking on the years: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lovely Beef Restaurant in Guro Digital

The Stumbler and I were turned away from our usual beef place in Guro Digital Complex, on account of it being packed full up on a chilly Tuesday night,so we made our way around the corner to a newish place called 산더미, which transliterates to Sandeomi, and sounds rather similar to a naughty sexual practice.

It appears very similar to most "Korean BBQ" places, a butcher at the front, exhaust hoses dangling over charcoal table grills, lots of people.

And of course, Korean meals come with 반찬 banchan, side dishes, including usually kimchi, "wild sesame" leaves, sprouts, onions, and lettuce for wrapping the meat in. You can also see some garlic, peppers and samjang on the right in the first pic:

But the key thing is the main course, the meat. Here we have 1,100 grams of sirloin and "rib meat" for 48,000 W.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Homemade Brunch Cafe

I'm not sure what the 37.5 in its name means, but that's only part of the reason I was intrigued by this new restaurant that opened in my neighborhood. Well, not merely my neighborhood, but my building, around the corner from the 7-eleven.

Who even knows what 'brunch' means in this country? Well, they do have it: 늦은 아침밥, meaning a late morning meal. But this cafe takes the more American meaning, serving light fare: soup, salad, omelettes, French toast. I was also intrigued by who would dine in a place so clearly non-Korean. Mok-dong, for all its virtues, is a very traditional area--most of your dining out choices in my neighborhood are sit-on-the-floor traditional or chicken hofs. Although that is changing. McDonald's won the Lotteria-Mickey D's battle here, even if I suspect that is because they have a rare drive-thru; one of the kimbab shops was replaced by a churros stand; and the Paris Baguette was kicked out by the swanky Bakery Napoleon.

I enjoy Korean food as much as the next guy. Actually, probably considerably more than the next guy, if the next guy isn't Korean. And not just so-called Korean barbecue, either: soups, stews, pajeon, kimchi, anything except octopus and stewed fish. However, the Korean flavor spectrum is rather like Mexican food: a limited number of ingredients, combined in lots of different ways. A man wants cheese and bread sometimes, too.

Therefore, I have eaten my "brunch" at 37.5 on successive Sundays, when 75% of the tables were filled. I first had the ham-cheese panini set, which included soup and salad for 10,000 W. It was quite good, although it had, dare I say it, one more slice of melty cheese that was strictly necessary. And that's real-and-true balsamic dressing for the salad.

Today, I went back and tried the ham-cheese French toast: the ingredients were in total balance, and the salad had more fruit and a nice dollop of cream cheese. Yes, that's a raspberry jus. Delicious. 12,000 W, a bit pricey.

Being a cafe, it offers a variety of coffees, a number of "ades" and fruit drinks, and an unexceptional list of beers, but I opted for something called a Godiva Oreo chocolate frappe. Wow! Perhaps the richest milkshake I've ever had. Pricey at 6,500 W but yum!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seoul Lantern Festival 2015

The Seoul Lantern Festival (서울빛초롱축제) began on November 7th, and closes tonight. It is held on the Cheonggyecheon, a "stream" running through downtown Seoul. I made it there last night, as my previous attempts at the foray were delayed by poor weather. I also attended this event in 2009 and 2012--click on the appropriate tag in the cloud to your right.

Since it was the last weekend, I knew it would be crowded, and it was. I don't really remember much of a line to go down to the "stream" area itself, but on this day, the line snaked around for 25 minutes. Credit to the organizers is due, however, as it was very sensible and smooth.

First, a few shots from street-level:

The first series of lanterns as you proceed from the ramp are all large-scale models of historical Korean buildings. These are lanterns--paper-covered, traditionally-built, although as a nod to safety they are lit by electricity.

The most charming lanterns, in my opinion, are the ones that depict everyday peasant life, such as children playing paengi, a spinning top game, or people sitting at a restaurant counter.

Of course, with thousands and thousands of visitors, it's not all paper lanterns the size of parade floats, There's also real people sitting at real food counters. for example, grilled squid, ddeokbokki, "egg bread", and chicken on a stick:

The Cheonggye stream was a signature project of Seoul Mayor, later Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, and although it was very controversial at the time, it is today a very popular recreation spot for Seoulites. I think it is well-done, and among the elements is a massive "room" under one of the bridges, where any number of events can be staged. During this festival, you can write out your message and wishes for the coming year. You can see the lanterns arranged behind me:

Many of the lanterns are best viewed from one side, but here's one which took viewers on each side of the stream into account:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Old Neighborhood, A New Restaurant

I got a call last week from the VP at Young-il High School, where I taught my first four years in Korea. He wasn't the Vice-Principal then, he was the German language teacher, and his classroom was next to the English Only Zone. We agreed to meet at the school and go out for dinner.

I arrived early in order to take a nice walk around to see what has changed in the area during the intervening four years. Surprisingly, not much. Peggy Pie has replaced Coffee Cafe, the dong office has taken down the bulletin boards in front, and the galbi-tang restaurant has been replaced by shiny new villas. However, the other restaurants I liked are still there, and happily, the street market is going strong.

I had never really documented this place, so I snapped a few shots to share with visitors to the Patch:

This kind of market is on the way out in Seoul, as large supermarkets proliferate and undercut their prices. But as you can see, this one (Mok-dong-5-dong Shi-jang) is still going strong. It has made some changes to compete with the chains, as I saw these pre-packaged, ready-to-cook family meals:

So, I met up with Mr Oh and we made our way to the Gang-seo-gu-cheong eating street, where we were joined by The Stumbler, who took the dinner pictures (except the first). After il-cha at Chicken Baengi (roughly, Chicken Guy), Mr Oh treated us to a great beef place called GramGram.

The name refers to fact that meat is sold by weight. This place was new to us, but it goes on the list, as it was tt was terrific.

We ate "one cow", han mari, basically a sampler from different parts of the cow.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Cambodia, Sihanoukville: Final Post

Sihanoukville is the main beach area of Cambodia, due east of Thailand's north Gulf, and described by some sources as what Thai beaches were like ten years ago. My stretch of beach was called Otres 2, and I have to say it was spectacular, and perfect for wading and swimming. While it rained in the mornings on a couple of my four days, the afternoons were nice and a bit of cloudiness enhances a sunset, I always think.

I mainly stayed at a place called Secret Garden Resort, where the bungalows are named, not numbered. I stayed in Fern.

I arrived at Sihanoukville a day early, due to travel arrangements (I have to say tourist transportation in Cambodia needs a lot of developing) and stayed at a newly-finished place called Seabreeze.

While I'm on hotel rooms, here is the room I had in Kampot at Rikitikitavi, including a private smoking patio. I stayed in six hotels during my stay, and smoking was not allowed in the rooms of any of them.

Here is a shot of my room in Phnom Penh at Longlin House, which ran only $15 per day including aircon and hot water.

I mentioned travel troubles in the country, and indeed my whole trip started in an inauspicious way when, immediately on take-off from Incheon, the airplane cabin filled with white smoke. This resulted in a brief period of considerable concern, and not just on my part, which was relieved when I realized it was condensation of the extremely humid air in Korea in late August.

Since the riverboat I had planned to take to cover much of the route from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville wasn't running, as the river was too low, I had to fly by way of a twin-engine prop plane, an Italian-built ATR-72.

Well, here ends my series of posts on my summer vacation in Cambodia. Seven posts, 150 pictures, ending with the one below just to round things off. Cambodia is an imperfect democracy, a very poor country, but a rich land nonetheless--in natural beauty, amazing history, and lovely people.