Thursday, April 27, 2017

Diner En Blanc, Ho Chi Minh City

It is no secret that I love a good social gathering. Especially if that gathering involves good people, good wine, and also happens to act as an excuse to don a custom made outfit. So when friends invited me to the Diner En Blanc, Ho Chi Minh City edition, I knew I couldn't pass it up.  

Diner En Blanc originated in Paris in 1988 and, in short, is a fancy, invite-only picnic-style dinner party. The location, kept secret until arrival, is a public space; guests identify each other by their all white attire.

Photo Credit: Pam Haake
After gathering at Vesper Gourmet Lounge to mingle and put final touches on picnic baskets, we were bussed to our evening's secret location: an outdoor venue space across from Diamond Plaza. Upon arrival, we set up our picnics, poured our wine, and signaled the beginning of dinner with a napkin wave. After ample time to indulge in the lovely spread of gourmet cheese, meat, and salad, sparklers were lit, telling guests that dinner was over and it was time to dance. 

Photo Credit: Greg Beale

Diner En Blanc made for a very lovely evening full of predictions, picnicking, and pinot gris and marks another successful social event for Ho Chi Minh City.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar: A Last Birthday in Vietnam.

A great last birthday in Vietnam. We gathered at Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar in Caravelle Hotel, the former watering hole and daily briefing location of the war correspondents, to watch the sunset and sip some fancy cocktails. When it opened in 1959, the Caravelle was the tallest building and the bar overlooked the capital.

 The sunset, the company, the cake, and the happy hour prices made for a delightful birthday evening. Thank you to all those who were able to join in person or in spirit!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Loveland in Jeju.

Turns out, there are about 100 museums on the island of Jeju which seems a little strange because the island is not large. Because we are only on the island for two full days and most of that time was to be dedicated to catching up with old friends and colleagues, we sadly had to limit ourselves to only one museum. We chose Loveland -- a statue park and museum featuring scenes of love and lust --mostly because that seemed pretty intriguing in comparison to every other museum any of us have ever visited. And it did not disappoint our intrigue; the museum/park features a plethora of items for viewing (and tasting) pleasure including gardens with statues and dioramas depicting various sexual positions and interactions, display cases of enhancement products from around the world and throughout time, and even love-themed treats in the cafe.  

I am not going to lie, I am a bit sad our choice was not the Hello Kitty Museum, but, alas, Loveland ended up being a pretty cool way to spend the afternoon. Entrance is 9,000 won (7.50 usd) and takes about an hour and a half to fully explore.

Dak Galbi

The popular Korean dish, dak galbi, begins with the lighting of the propane tank. My friends and I circle around a knee-high table and watch as our server reaches below us to light the heating source while simultaneously placing a giant circular skillet on top. As the pan heats, the warmth penetrates the cool air, providing comfort to my chilled face.  My body, now acclimated to the intense heat of Vietnam, constantly shivers in the crisp fall weather it met in Korea.

 Once our pan is hot, our server piles it high with rice noodles, potato pieces, cabbage, spinach, chicken, and garlic. It is cooked right there in front of us; the steam heavy and the air becoming thick with the savory scent of chili powder and garlic. 

The rapid stirring stops and a mound of grated white cheese is added. The pot is covered for a bit and it all simmers together, the cheese melting into a blanket beneath the metal lid.  I notice that with dak galbi, there seems to be no attention to detail; it is quite simply: dump, stir, stir again, simmer.  

As we wait, we sip on cold Cass beers and nibble on kimchi. We talk about our international travels and because we are all teachers, we talk about that too.

And then it is ready. We use chopsticks to eat straight from the pan. My mouth becomes hot, both from the temperature and the chili spice. It is delicious. And the sauce is thick; it lingers in my mouth, coating my palate red chili and grease.

When we finish, the pan is reheated and bap, rice, with dried seaweed and a salty red sauce is added.  All the leftover pieces and sauce is mixed up with the rice and heated thoroughly.  This takes only moments, and although completely full, I manage to consume an entire bowl.

     I have never been much of a foodie, but I will say that Korean food alone makes the country worthy of a visit.