Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Seoul (Korea)

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Frank has been delinquent with blog posts so I am skipping ahead to Korea for just this post.

September 14, 2010 (Tuesday) – September 27, 2010 (Monday):

For two whole weeks, for every lunch and dinner, we met with relatives of Frank’s and mine in Seoul.  This was detrimental to my plan to lose some weight before Hami’s wedding in October, but who can say no to delicious Korean food? Our meals included buffet at various hotels, hanjungsik (traditional Korean course meal), hwe (sashimi), grilled pig skin and chicken feet, ddukbokgi and many more… Although we hardly had any time to go off on our own to do some sightseeing around Seoul, we were very happy that we invested all our time there to meet and get to know our aunts/uncle/cousins/other relatives. Who knows…it may be another ten years before we come back to our motherland… and at which time, we may have a whole new set of faces to get to know.

Even though it had been more than ten years since I had last hung out with my relatives in Korea, it felt as if I had just seen them. For me, walking around in Korea and seeing familiar faces brought back many fond memories from living in Korea. I realized once again that blood is thicker than water. We thank all of our families in Korea for taking time out of their busy schedule to spend time with us and treating us so nicely. We thank Yoon-ah unni’s family especially for letting us stay with them for two weeks and making us feel at home! We will miss you all!

We often forgot to take pictures, but here are some pictures we remembered to take in Korea.

Verona and Venice (Italy)

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

August 7, 2010 (Saturday) – August 14, 2010 (Saturday):

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…What to do here for a week??  Years ago, having gone to Florence, Rome and Tuscany…something new is now what we seek. (ok, that’s it with the “rhyming”).

Miriam’s been to Venice before, so instead of staying in someplace where either of us has already been, we stayed in fair Verona, a short 2-hour train ride from Venice, with the hopes to just relax for a week, in a B&B.  So Miriam found a nice B&B in Verona, just outside the main city center.

The B&B was great.  With only four rooms, which were not always occupied, it felt like we had the whole hillside villa to ourselves.  Breakfasts (consisting of croissants, sometimes prosciutto, yogurts, cereal, and fresh fruits) were served on the outside patio area, which our host, Marco, prepared graciously everyday.  On another side of the villa, there were additional patio seating where we could read and take care of trip planning, all the while enjoying a beautiful view of Verona.   At night, we would utilize the large dining area to continue to do more trip planning, while enjoying the bottles of wine we purchased from Germany and from our wine tasting trip in nearby Valpolicella (more on that later).   All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay (especially the air conditioning), and the comfortable B&B a perfect escape from the wretched heat and humidity.

Yup, the European summer heat had finally found us.  After a month in Europe, we’ve mostly been greeted with mild climate and occasional rain.  But in Verona, the temperature would hover around 30-35 degrees Celsius (or 86-95 degrees F), not temperatures we would want to walk around all day in.  So luckily, we had a whole week to explore Verona.

My basic impression of Verona was….very Italy.  Small town, narrow streets, vibrant market squares.  Aside from the heat, walking around the town and taking in the surroundings was very enjoyable.  Reminded us about everything we love about Italy.  Much like Rome with its Coliseum, and Tuscany with its Duomo, Verona had its Arena — enormous structures situated in the thick of the city.   The Arena is an open-air coliseum, which during the summer months, is used to house the summer opera season.  Lucky for us, we’re in Verona….and it’s the summer. So, let’s watch an opera.  The opera we chose was Aida.  The Veronans?…Veronese?…Veronians?…let’s just call them Italians.   The Italians in Verona take their summer opera season seriously.   There are certain ways they like to enjoy their opera at the Arena.  For instance, many purchase the unreserved “seats” in the upper parts of the Arena.   I say “seats” because really you’re just purchasing an area in the upper parts of the Arena and sitting on the hard stone.  Knowing this, there are opportunistic vendors outside the Arena selling cushions, which we bought two of the inflatable variety.  Luckily we did, because not only did the cushion provide comfort from the hard stone, but also provided protection from the warm stone that had been baking all day in the hot weather.  Another fascinating practice the patrons of the unreserved section of the Arena do is to hold up candles throughout the beginning of the opera.  And when you’re in the upper sections, with the open air and the sky as a backdrop, it makes for a wonderful scene.

So that’s basically the most touristy thing we did in Verona.   Like I said, it was hot so we really didn’t want to walk around too much (and one day towards the end of the week, it actually poured, so we didn’t want to walk around too much then either).  Mainly we just did some light walking around the town and relaxed at the B&B.

As for day trips outside of Verona, we took a nice wine tour in the Valpolicella region to taste some Amarone wine, and also spent a day in Venice.

Without even knowing, Verona is quite close to the Amarone-producing wine region of Valpolicella.  We found a tour operator that gave semi-private wine tours of the region.  To me, next to Brunello and Barolo, Amarone wine comes a close third among favorite types Italian red wines.  After explaining the wine-making process of Amarone wines, the tour guide took us to the Campagnola and Brunelli wineries.  Two very different wineries in terms of size.  Both are family-owned and run, but Campagnola is much larger in scale to Brunelli.  Whereas Campagnola has a state-of-the-art assembly line production and bottling facility, Brunelli has a single (maybe two) production farmhouse.   But both wines were very good.  We bought a couple bottles and enjoyed them back at the B&B during the evenings.

As for Venice, it was my first time and Miriam’s second time there.   Having gone to Venice now, I must agree, it’s not really worth staying there . It’s probably better just visiting on a day-trip.  We got in most of the sights and did a walking tour around the city.  We found a restaurant (Do Spade) for dinner that served cichetti (Italian tapas).  We got there as it opened, and there was another couple, a Japanese couple, also waiting.  We got seated and then another small group of Japanese tourists arrived in the restaurant.  A few minutes later, another Japanese couple came in for dinner.  What’s going on?  We noticed a few of them had either a Japanese guidebook or some printout.   This restaurant must have been featured on some Japanese guide, because when we left after dinner (which the food was quite good by the way), all the patrons were Japanese except for probably two tables of Italians.  It was quite odd.

So that’s Verona (/Valpolicella/Venice). Next up, a 7am (12-hour) train ride to Zagreb, Croatia.

To view more pictures from Verona / Venice, visit the Photos.

Amsterdam

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

July 25, 2010 (Sunday) – July 30, 2010 (Friday)

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Solvang anymore….” Where are the windmills? Where are the colorful tuilp-lined hillsides? Where are all the blond ladies with pigtails wearing wooden clogs? This is definitely not Solvang. This is Amsterdam. Home of the canals, home of the bike-riding populous, home of the famed red-light district, home of amstel light. And of course, home of many people’s favorite herbal lady, MJ (and I’m not talking about my MJ….correction, MK)

I don’t know what I quite expected of Amsterdam, but in some ways it was what I expected (the canals; the bikes); and in other ways not what I expected (marijuana smell was not pervasive; windmills didn’t litter the city).

We were to be in Amsterdam for five days, so we wanted to get the obligatory museum / tourist sights out of the way in the beginning. So we spent the first two days visiting the Van Gogh museum, Rijks museum, couple of the main churches (Oude Kerk and Nieuwe kerk), and the Anne Frank museum (technically I visited this later in the week, but for the sake of fluidity of my blog posting I’m lumping it in together here). The Van Gogh museum was quite fascinating as it exhibits Van Gogh’s works spanning the whole of his career. Side note: interestingly, when I first learned about Van Gogh in elementary school, the teachings highlighted that Van Gogh cut off his ear as an act of passion towards his love (and if I recall correctly, a female). But in the museum, there was no mention of this. But rather, that he cut off his ear after a fight with his friend. So, either our elementary schools are once again massaging history to get kids interested in learning art by making up some romantic story, or, I day-dreamed all of that, perhaps as a glimpse into my own soul and romanticized delusions. At any rate, Van Gogh ended up with only one ear, and I still have both of mine.

Rijks museum housed Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch. Impressive, indeed. To experience firsthand the sheer size and detail of the work was alone well worth the price of admission. And considering that they’re renovating most of the museum for another few years and The Night Watch was the highlight piece on display in the temporary exhibit, I’d say that’s a pretty accurate statement.

Anne Frank museum. I went in alone because Miriam doesn’t like Anne Frank and her plight. Just kidding. Miriam didn’t go because she’s been already the last time she was in Amsterdam. She said that I should go to learn some compassion and tolerance. Psh….good luck. Anyway, after reading the Diary of Anne Frank in 8th grade, it was great to actually see firsthand things I remembered from the book, not exact details, but things like the bookcase hiding the secret stairwell, or being in the room where the families had to hide day and night, or being in the house and seeing some of the preserved walls from how it was when Anne Frank and her family lived there. Quite an eye-opening experience.

Okay, enough of that, let’s talk happy. Unlike Vincent from Pulp Fiction, we did eat at Burger King. And also witnessed that at McDonald’s in Amsterdam, there is in fact, a quarter pounder with cheese. Food in Amsterdam was surprisingly quite good (fast food chains notwithstanding). Led by our trusty guidebook and recommendations from my former coworkers, we experienced the exquisite low-priced, but tasty Van Dobben croquettes, Jonk herring, and Dutch pancakes (mix between a crepe and omelet); excellent Indonesian food and Argentine steaks (it’s hard not to try when you’re inundated by Argentine steakhouses literally on every corner); and nicer establishments such as Envy and De Kas (excellent fresh vegetables and edible flowers).

In between all this eating and museum-hopping, we did manage to take in the city, separately by both bike and canal. We spent a morning trying to blend in with the locals (despite our obvious differences in hair and skin color) by riding our bikes around town and through Vondelpark. Miriam is becoming quite the hell-on-wheels “bikeress”, confidently ringing her bicycle bell at approaching, unsuspecting pedestrians. What have we created!

And last, but not least, the bars. This is becoming a bit of a too common mention, the bars. But honestly, we are not alcoholics (yeah yeah, step 1). Anyway, the first bar worth mentioning, my friend recommended, and I’m glad he did. We finally saw a windmill!!! This bar, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, was great. Not only did it have the aforementioned windmill, but it had a great outdoor seating area, and the beers were cheap and good. A welcome combination on these warm weather days here in Amsterdam. The second bar, which we enjoyed (perhaps a bit too much) was Gollem. We found this “locals” joint after a day spent wandering around De Negen Straatjes (“The Nine Streets”). This bar was small, but with a good crowd without too many tourists. And, they served an extensive selection of Belgian beers (including all the Belgian trappist beers). This is where we capped off our Amsterdam trip: into the wee hours with good beer, good friends we met at Gollem, and 3 hot dogs at 3am. All this fun, and we didn’t get high once.

To view more pictures from Amsterdam, visit the Photos.

Lake District (pt. 2)

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

July 9, 2010, Friday:

Day 2 in the Lake District started off early with a full English breakfast provided by our B&B. The breakfast consisted of a fried egg (kind of runny), baked beans (kind of runny), sausage (kind of salty), 2 strips of bacon (definitely salty), hash brown (kind of good), fried toast (kind of strange and definitely unhealthy), 3 mushroom wholes (kind of weird), and a slice of tomato (kind of greasy). In addition, yogurt, regular toast, cereal, and fruit was also provided. Pictures would do my descriptions better justice, but we didn’t take any. Oh well.

Despite to continuing rain that started since the morning, the day was spent again walking/hiking through and around town. There’s really not much else to do in the Lake District / Ambleside but to walk / enjoy the outdoors (rain or shine). The “morning session” was spent walking through the park and along the adjacent running river, across a stepping stone bridge, and across a field of grazing sheep/goat/lamb (I can never figure out which is what). That’s another thing about Ambleside, there’s sheep/goat/lamb randomly grazing all along every piece of greenery. You can’t escape them. In fact, sometimes you’ll be walking along the high fields, and all of a sudden a head will pop out of the high grass, and it’ll be a sheep/goat/lamb eating lunch. Quite cute, actually.

Back in town, we stopped at a presumably nice-looking sit-down restaurant/bistro that we had high hopes for, Lucy’s. Our high hopes were solely based on the fact that she seemed to be well established in the community (several restaurants and off-shoot restaurants within the surrounding area). Unfortunately, our hopes were severely misplaced. Miriam had a burger, which unexaggeratedly was the worse burger ever, hands down. The bun (a ciabatta) to burger ratio was way off; the burger patty was dry; the “bacon” that it came with was half-bacon / half-ham (literally, the left side looked like bacon strip, and as you made your way over to the right side it started widening out and looked like a flat ham slice.); and the “cheese” that was melted over the “bacon” looked nuked and orangish-red fluorescent.

For my dish, I had a grilled rainbow trout. For a rainbow trout, my dish was not flamboyant nor had a lisp, but rather was just plain bland. I had to load it up with some sauce and spices just to get some life into it. After London, it was clear that our quest for decent food in the UK would not be satisfied in the Lake District either.

After lunch, we walked down to the lake, about a 1.5 mile saunter down the flat thoroughfare. Nothing exciting, so let’s move onto dinner and drinks. Dinner, surprisingly, fared better, but not by much. Miriam had a ribeye steak, which I can only kindly describe as something you could easily get in Vegas at the Hooters Casino $5.99 dinner deals (or so I’ve heard…). My lamb chop was “lamb-y”. But quite possibly really fresh, given the abundance of lamb grazing in the fields right outside.

After dinner, we hit up the local pub scene. And I use the word “scene” very loosely. Most places were lucky to have more than a handful of revelers at one time. But we didn’t mind. We just wanted some of their refreshing beverage to wash down our “tasty” meal. Surprisingly, one of the joints we visited, happened to have a live band performing that night, the Muscavados. They bill themselves as Irish blues folk music. Which I have to agree, they had all the requisite components to qualify: fiddle, guitar, contra-bass, Irish-speaking singers. But it wasn’t until I went into the bar’s bathroom and heard House of Pain playing over the speakers that I thought, “Ay, now there’s some fine Irish tunes.”

London (pt. 1)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

UPDATE: Pictures added.

This post will not currently have any pictures since I am posting via Blackberry (free wi-fi at a London public library. Yay for London-tax-paying dollars). Miriam is playing on the computer doing some silly stuff like looking for a hotel room for us to stay in tonight…psh. So pictures will come once I commandeer the computer back.

We arrived in London after a non-eventful direct flight from LAX. Upon arriving, we spent literally an hour at the foreign exchange counter figuring out what the best method of converting our hard earned dollars into lousy pounds (having two finance people working on this does not make this exercise any easier, only complicates monetary philosophies). At any rate, the summary is if you have BofA checking account, you can pull out foreign cash from certain foreign ATMs (e.g. Barclays in UK) without incurring ATM fees and get far better exchange rates than those counters. And for everything else that doesn’t require cash, use Capital One credit card, no foreign transactions fees (AMEX/Visa/MC charge ~3%) and competitive exchange rates.

So that’s how we spent our first hour in London. Fun times. (Side note: in my Mrs. Kirby fourth grade elementary school class, we were first introduced to “show-not-tell” writing. Usage of metaphors, similes, adjectives, etc., to enhance the descriptive nature of writing and make your prose more interesting. If you are in fourth grade, or reading other people’s writings to learn how to better write, stop reading this blog now! I employ the “tell-and-tell-some-more” philosophy of writing. You will gain nothing from reading my blog, except a lot of useless information.)

We spent the first day in London getting our bearings like a lion surveying the plain for potential game. We made note of several places we would frequent to satisfy our growing hunger, as we made our way to the British visitors/tourist office on Regent street. At the office we gathered local information as well as booked a tour to Windsor Castle / Bath / Stonehenge for the following day. Nothing too exciting, but at least we knew we would at least accomplish one activity on our trip. The rest of the day was spent meandering through Central London and lounging/reading/basking in the sun at St. James Park. Dinner for the evening was at Wagamama. A noodle shop recommended by one of Miriam’s friend. Wagamama has several locations throughout London (as well as other cities), and we must have gone to the wrong location as our meals weren’t that great. The place seemed to have potential, but we suspect our noodles weren’t cooked thoroughly because both of our ramens weren’t very good. The broth was also bland. Oh well, the gyoza wasn’t bad. After dinner, we walked back to our hotel and turned in at 6:30pm. Hello jet lag.