Thursday, March 31, 2011

Some leftover pictures from Japan...wines at home

Here are some of the wines I drank at home when I was back in Tokyo earlier in March.

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2006 Cordero di Montezemolo, Langhe Arneis...aromatic with the dry finish. Still tasting very fresh for 5-year-old Arneis.
2008 Chateau Mont-Perat, Premier Cotes de Bordeaux...This wine has become extremely popular after it was introduced in "Kami no Shizuku" (Japanese comic about a sommelier). 80% Merlot, 10% CS, 10% CF. Aged in 100% new barrique. Extremely rich and juicy. Distinctive but soft tannins. After 20-30 minutes in the glass, the wine has opened up really nicely with ripe cherry and berries.
2008 Franco Mondo, Monferrato Rosso...also from Piemonte. Great value wine with Barbera (70%) and CS (30%). Medium body. Refreshing acidity with fresh raspberries and black berries.
2009 Julies Lacroix, Gevrey-Chambertin...Aged for 12 months in French oak (20% new). Charming medium body. Tea smoke, earthy, berries.
NV Janisson Baradon, Champagne Brut, Non-Dose (Epernay)...Gorgeously bone-dry Champagne. 50/50 Chard and PN. 30% were aged in used French oak from Bourgogne. 50-60 months sur lie in the bottle. VV (average 30 years old). They have the same enologue as Jacque Selosse's. Blend from 2002 (70%) and 2001 (30%) vingates. Brioche, spice, outstanding minerality. Very fine mousse. Rich palate and long finish.
2004 Antoine Chatelet, Volnay 1er cru...Nice minerally character of Volnay.
2004 Bodegas Estefania, Tilenus, Mencia Crianza (DO Bierzo)...Bierzo has become a "hot" appellation in the past 5 years or so. Grapes are from average 60-yr-old vines. Aged in French oak (mostly new?) for 11 months. Beautiful balance. Crushed dark berries and chocolate.
2001 Domaine des Varoilles, Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er cru "Champonnets"...Aged nicely. Developed aroma of mushroom, herbs, and soil. Smooth palate. Very nice minerality.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trip to Seoul (March 2011)...Sundubu lunch

Our last day of Seoul in this trip was another beautiful sunny day.

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We browsed Namdaemun Market. Visiting different markets in Seoul is so much fun. The market was so lively with countless number of vendors, including grocery, restaurants, food stands, clothes, leather, pots and pans, etc. etc.

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Food from street vendors looked so yummy.

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From there, we walked to Myeong-dong for lunch. Our destination was Myeongdong Tofu Restaurant. They specialize in sundubu jjigae (tofu soup) dishes.

We got lucky again by getting there early. By noon, the restaurant was completely packed and there were many people waiting outside for tables. The lunch crowd was more than 90% local guys seemingly taking a lunch break from work. It’s nice that Korean businessmen have healthy food for lunch.

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Their banchan (small appetizers) were simple trio. Fresh eggs were standing by at the table.

This is their tofu pulp (we call it “okara” in Japanese) pancake. I’ve never had it before! This restaurant makes fresh tofu every morning, so they have fresh okara (leftover after straining soymilk for tofu) every morning, too. The pancake was fluffy and had the nice flavor. I really enjoyed it, so I want to recreate it at home when I return to LA.

I ordered seafood sundubu, and my mom had mushroom sondubu. Each sundubu came with individually made rice in a stone pot. As soon as our soups arrived, we cracked open eggs to submerge in the soup.

My seafood sundubu had shrimp, clams, and oysters. The broth was very naturally flavored and almost delicate. Tofu (again, made in the morning) was really fresh. It was great. We were also served a pot of warm brown tea (barley?). Local people serve rice out of a stone pot into a small bowl, then pour warm brown tea into the still hot stone pot. The remaining rice in the pot becomes like soupy rice. I personally prefer eating rice just with sundubu and drink tea separately, so I didn’t follow the custom this time.

On our way out, I found bags of okara piled up at the door. They were free to take away! How nice. Since they make so much tofu every morning, they must have so much leftover fresh okara, too. I wish I could take home a bag if I wasn’t travelling.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Trip to Seoul (March 2011)...Medicinal dinner for your heart and soul

(from March 9, 2011)
Our last dinner of this trip was another special one. We went to Baedongbaji in Samchondong area. It was also another “hidden” restaurant, even more so than last night’s blowfish restaurant.

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Our taxi kept going up and up on the stylish street with cafes and boutiques, then entered into very quiet residential area up on the hill. Even with his GPS and a couple of phone calls, he couldn’t find the restaurant, then finally we were right nearby and the owner (who probably heard the car) came out of the restaurant to get us.

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This place is indeed a residential house, which was turned into a restaurant. Their dining has only private rooms. Luckily, we were escorted to a second floor room with the nice view overlooking the old town.

It seemed there were only local Korean customers at this restaurant on this evening. The menu was written only in Korean, and the owner spoke very little Japanese or English. But, she was so kind and tried to explain the menu very hard to us. The dinner has only three levels of course meals, and we picked their “basic” dinner course, which sounded to be already a feast.

We started with their homemade Dongdongju (freshly fermented rice wine with some rice grains inside). It was so fresh, so tangy, and so tasty. It was certainly more sophisticated version than any dongdongju or makgoli I'd tasted before.
At Baedongbaji, they serve original Korean course dishes, which combines both traditional palace cuisine (including meat and fish) and Buddhist-style vegan cuisine. I learned the owner/ chef has been an expert of wild plant cooking for a few decades, so I was so thrilled to taste her vegetable-oriented dishes.

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The dinner started with so many dishes. These are basically our “first courses”. My eyes were dazzled by the beautifully prepared small dishes. There were porridge, two kinds of vegetable pajeong (pancakes…one was with some weed, and the other was something like turnip), kimchi, etc. Gujeolpan (thin pancakes with elaborated nine different foods…it’s like make-your-own tacos) was served with sesame-flavored sauce.

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Many more dishes…

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And more…

There were total about 25 dishes, or more than 35 different preparations. If you count the number of ingredients, it must have been dozens of mostly vegetables plus meat and seafood. Quality of all the ingredients were at their highest. And, every single dish had different flavors. We ate so much and got so full, but our bodies felt so good with all the healthy “medicinal” dishes made with so many different kinds of vegetables, medicinal herbs and spices.

I was so inspired by this sophisticated Korean dinner. This has become another place I want to go back every time I visit Seoul.