Saturday, November 28, 2015

Birthday Flowers and a New Camera

I received these flowers from work for my birthday this year, which made me happy.  It was a very pink bouquet… but it was also very big and made me feel very special!

 The bouquet was so big that when I got home I had to split it into two:

I also finally went ahead and bought a d-SLR, which has always somewhat intimidated me (I do not really "do" manuals, as in, I don't really have the patience to read the stuff).  I am really excited to use it on the Sri Lanka and South Africa trips.  Given these amazing, exotic locations, it just seemed a shame if I didn't capture the experiences with something more sophisticated than my utterly crap Samsung phone camera!
I bought a Nikon D3300 which I thought was the right price point, size and capability for my needs (i.e., total beginner) and it just arrived in Hong Kong on Friday.
I really want to make use of the camera's manual mode, because, otherwise, what's the point, right?  So I am patiently flipping through the user manual now, in perhaps my first ever attempt to learn "all the buttons."  It has been really fun putting it together and learning all the bits and pieces.  I'm trying not to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of buttons and information on the machine.  I hope better pictures are coming to this blog, soon!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

It has been a quiet space on this blog these past few days, because I found out tragic and sad news on Monday which left me reeling - shocked and sad and aching.

And need I add that lately the world news has not been especially optimistic or promising either.

I love Thanksgiving, but not at all for the food or the trite history lesson that American textbooks tout.  No, I love it because it encourages all of us to take a moment out of our small lives, to try to forget the conflicts, squabbles, death, pain, destruction and violence that surround us, so that we can focus on the biggest picture of all -- the fragile ties that bind us.  

We are all dust motes in the grand universe, flecks of nothing floating in the vast span of the time space continuum.  In the end, what do we have but family, friendship, love, and simple human kindness?  But for food to sustain us and drink to quench us, what more do we need?

I have been thinking a lot these days, but especially today of all days, about appreciating the people around you, taking stock of the blessings that have been bestowed upon you, and above all, being generous and kind and good, to others - and to yourself.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Date Night - Fish & Meat

Do you sense a trend here?  Michael and I have been going on a lot of date nights recently.  Every week, in fact!  On Saturday night we went to Fish & Meat because well, Michael was craving meat!

We were originally seated right at the front of the restaurant next to a rowdy game of foosball.  We asked to be moved.  Thankfully, the restaurant was pretty nice about it and complied pretty immediately.   I would say that overall, standard(s) of service in Hong Kong, especially in the food and beverage industry, can be lacking.  But Fish & Meat did a pretty good job from start to finish.
Their menu is quite nice - it had a few new additions from the last time I'd been there.

Michael ordered the summer negroni, which was very pretty.
He very much enjoyed it, despite the fact that it was a little sweet and not as strong as he is used to.
 We ordered the duck egg, parma ham, frisee and artichoke salad with french mustard vinaigrette to start.  This was quite tasty - I loved the contrast of the crisp frisee with the soft runny egg, and the saltiness of the parma ham with the sweetness of the artichoke. The french mustard vinaigrette cut through all of the fattier and creamier flavors with sparkling acidity.
 I ordered a whole roast French baby chicken.   The skin was perfectly seasoned and cooked to a nice crisp.  It sat on a bed of orzo and brussel sprouts.
And yes, my fellow readers, I ate the whole thing clean.
Michael ordered a rib-eye that was accompanied with a watercress and fennel salad.  I would just like to point out that the greens were wasted on him, as he did not even touch the salad.  He thinks that the  pat of garlic butter on the steak was "interesting," i.e., he would have preferred for it not to be there.  But overall, he thought the meat was a quality cut and cooked to perfection (very tender and rare - apparently quite a hard achievement for a ribeye).
Michael also ordered a side of bone marrow flavored mashed potatoes, which were so, so good.  They also contained a positively indecent amount of garlic...
After our very enjoyable dinner, we headed to the China Club, where we sat idly in the Long March bar and sampled Indian single malt whisky (for Michael) and a mojito (for me).

I highly recommend the mojitos at the China Club!  They use generous amounts of mint and lime, and the result is a fantastic, refreshing, tongue-tingling beverage.  The only danger is you drink it too quickly!  Michael also loved his whisky.
 It was a pretty quiet night in the bar, which was kind of fun because it made it feel like it was ours.
 Michael loves the oversized, plushy soft chairs in this room.
When our friends arrived, we headed up to the terrace off of the library, to sit and chill for a few hours al fresco.  The men each smoked a cigar.  It was a great night, all in all.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Flowers and Fruit

It's Friday, and I bring you another flowers and fruit post!

Ranunculus from the wet market on my walk home, for just because.

I also purchased some Taiwanese muscat grapes, also from the market on my walk home.  These things are so sweet they are like candy.  They are distinctive based on their dark, dusky purple skins and almost perfectly round globular shapes.  

The skins on these grapes detach easily, so that you can easily pop the whole fruit in your mouth, suck the juicy center out easily from the skin, then discard the skin and pits in one go.  I could eat these things forever, but for the fact that the grape skins contain a lot of tannins (or something slightly acidic), so after a while my tongue starts to feel a bit abused and sore, forcing me to take a (short) break.
Before I realize it, my fingers hover over an empty plate -- all of the fruit has been devoured.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas Holiday 2015

We have finally booked our Christmas holiday!  Guess where we're headed?

...Sri Lanka! 

The Wikipedia page alone gives me shivers of anticipation.  "Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), a tiny island nation south of India in the Indian Ocean, is a rugged land of rainforest, diverse wildlife and endless beaches."  Mmmmm.

Doesn't Ceylon just conjure up vivid images of tea, steamer trunks and sepia toned photographs, and birds and elephants roaming verdant jungles?  Maybe a spot of yellow fever? Or is that just me?

In any event, we struggled with, and considered, and hoped to book, New Zealand, Austria, Japan, Thailand, Italy... but in the end this seemed the right pick and I couldn't be any more excited.  It will be very nature focused, with a stay in Yala National Park (where elephants, leopards, and birds of all kinds roam free), followed by a visit to a world class bird sanctuary in Kalametiya, then a whale watching tour in Mirissa, and finally culminating in a few days of relaxation on a beach to ring in Christmas.

So far the planning of this trip seems to have caused more frustration and bickering between Michael and me than for our wedding, so that might give you an idea of the trials and tribulations of trying to piece together an itinerary in a country that is decidedly not logical.

For example, my personal favorite: there is an airport (Mattala) right next to the Yala National Park, which is where we would like to go upon landing in Colombo... but there are no domestic or international flights that fly to this airport, except for one direct flight from Dubai (um, okay) or else by private charter.  Do you know how much it costs to charter your own plane? It is not cheap, even in Sri Lanka.  The drive from Colombo to Yala ranges from 5 hours on a good day to 8 hours on a bad day. The flight would take 45 minutes.

Then we realized that the Sri Lanka flights from Hong Kong into Colombo, while billed as nonstop, actually contain a layover... in none other than Mattala!  However, no one is allowed to embark or deplane because it is a "technical layover" (what does this mean?) and, after everyone idles on the runway for a bit, the plane takes off again for Colombo.

What?? Am I right?  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Spectre at Pacific Place AMC

On Monday evening work hosted a fun office event, booking the whole theater of AMC Pacific Place to watch "Spectre."  I was there at the first sound of free movie ticket and unlimited popcorn, but I was not so enthused about the chosen movie.  There were so many points during the movie when I could not resist rolling my eyes or uttering a sigh of utter disbelief.  I just kept thinking, "Seriously??"  But that said, the helicopter stunts in this movie were great!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A (Cutting Edge) Wedding Present

Excuse the long delay in posting this - we grilled chicken, burgers and vegetables a while ago and I'm only just putting up a post of this now.  Michael's sister and fiancé gave us a cutting board personalized with our initials and wedding date, which was very thoughtful!  It doubles as a beautiful serving tray as well.  I really do think it made our grilled veggies taste even more delicious.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Date Night at Linguini Fini

We went to Linguini Fini yesterday for a date night.  We have really been into pasta and Italian food lately - two weeks ago we went to Cecconi's and last week we went to Posto Pubblico.

I really like the interior of Linguini Fini - high arching ceilings, huge lamps, candles, black and white photographs… and comfortable, big booths.
 We were pretty happy that we got a booth.
 I really liked the candles and candelabra behind me.
 We managed to score the sweet spot because we promised to be done with dinner in an hour and a half - and because we showed up for an early dinner.
 Michael started with a negroni.  The citrus peel gave the drink a lovely fragrance.

 We had fried risotto balls to start.  These were good, but they gave us only three!
 Michael got a fettucini with fried chicken.  He thought the chicken was over-fried (too dry and crispy).  The portion size was tiny.
 I ordered linguini with clams, but the pasta that I actually received was clearly not linguini.  There were also lumps of pasta that boiled together, which was not very good.
We ordered a side insalata mista.  Their garlic balsamic vinaigrette was delicious.
Overall, I would say that we likely will not be back.  The space is lovely, open and airy, and unlike so many other restaurants in Hong Kong you don't feel cramped at all.  However, their portions are tiny, not always prepared well, and the service is very slow.  We likely will stick to Posto Pubblico in the future.  Maybe we would come here for a drink.

Linguini Fini
49 Elgin St.
Hong Kong
2387 6338

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday Night Junk Trip... Turned Into A Hotpot Party!

I was supposed to go on a junk trip to Lamma Island for a seafood dinner on Friday night, but the weather has been just horrific (gray, overcast, cloudy, slit-your-wrist yucky) and the rain was starting to come down in earnest just around 6 pm. 

So... the group decided to do hotpot instead!  And I could not be happier.  I love hotpot.  I love that I've finally found people here who love hotpot.  Bliss!!

We went to Budaoweng, and ordered an herbal chicken soup base and a satay soup base.  I love their sauces.  We got multiple platters of dumplings and fish balls, a vegetable platter, noodles, crispy tofu skin and mushrooms and beef slices.  It was so good.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kiu Heung Yuan (橋香園) Yunnan Rice Noodles -- Another Delicious Spot

I can't believe that I never tried this place in all the time that I've lived in Central and Midlevels.  I finally picked my head up one day and properly read the sign, and realized that this shop sold Yunnan/cart/rice/over the bridge noodles (yeah, it goes by a lot of names)!  The stuff I love!

These noodles are a great texture, slightly thick and round, and in a spicy and sour broth that is to salivate for.  They usually allow you to pick a number of toppings (hence the cart noodle aspect of it).

I mean, what with the completely faded and over bright sign, and the restaurant being wedged in between the sketchy hallway for foot massages and the two convenience stores crammed to the hilt with STUFF, I guess you can't really blame me for not noticing the restaurant.

Then, before I had a chance to go more than once, it closed for renovation.

But now it's open again!

It looks a lot more clean, with new mirrors, new tile floors, new metal stools, and very snazzy sparkly tile on the walls.

However, the menu has stayed exactly the same, and more importantly, so have the prices.

And actually, I guess some things haven't changed - it's still a bit of a mess...

But I am so happy for this, that I don't care: 

I chose medium spicy with white radish, lettuce and enoki mushrooms, with a healthy heaping of cilantro.  It comes with pickled vegetables (which is what makes it pretty sour) and meat.

Kiu Heung Yuan (or Qiao Xiang Yuan in Mandarin)
91 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
2581 1337

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Networking Event at the Mandarin Oriental

So work has been a pretty long hard slog lately, but I took time to go to the insurance conference pre-venue dinner at the Mandarin hotel yesterday.

On the first floor, there are a set of rooms across the lobby from the Chinnery and next to the Mandarin Bar & Grill that I've never noticed.


 I was really surprised that the event was not just drinks and cocktail snacks, but rather a full sit down three course dinner with appetizer (lobster and micro greens and sweet potato), entree (steak with truffled potatoes and roasted baby beets) and dessert (cheese and berries), as well as wine and coffee and tea.

I only had time for appetizer and entree, but I loved the gorgeous surroundings, and I actually had a lot of fun networking with everyone at my table.  It was the first time at a conference in Hong Kong where nearly everyone at my table spoke Mandarin, and the conversation was mostly carried out in Mandarin.