Friday, April 29, 2016

A Busy Week, Congee, and A Night at the Races

This week has been pretty crazy, what with multiple deals blowing up at work and my mom visiting.

I have discovered a pretty view of the harbor on a path near our apartment - it is a nice walk along the water, from Sun Yat Sen park to the Macau ferry terminal.  There are also palm trees on the path!  We went there after dinner on my mom's first night in town.
 The next day, my mom and I went to a local congee restaurant to get breakfast.  The restaurant was bustling, which is a very good sign.
 It is very old school.  I got the century old egg with pork.  My mom got the fish slices, which came with thin slivers of ginger.  I thought it was very tasty.
 We got fried noodles too.  One of my favorite things is the contrasting color of the plates and bowls.
 On Wednesday night, Michael and I took my mom to the races.  My mom had never been, so we thought it might be fun.  This was our view looking up:
We sat at the Leading Edge balcony, which came with a set meal and unlimited soft drinks and non alcoholic beverages.  It is actually a good deal, I think!

This is our view looking down at the track:
 Great view of the track because it's a full glass partition!  My only complaint is that the outside seating is essentially a bath in a continuous, non-ending stream of cigarette smoke.  I left feeling high and jittery.

Below, some action shots!

I wish I could say that we won big money, but oh well.  Michael won on the first horse he bet and we did get an exciting quinella place.  It was fun.

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Mom is Visiting! And Other Random and More Random Thoughts

Well, this month of April has felt like a breathless, harried sprint toward May.

My mom is visiting tomorrow (squee!) and I have a whole exciting list of things to do (foot massage, manicure pedicures, clay pot rice, local dessert places, a spa session, dim sum, etc.) and we even planned a trip together to Xiamen for the upcoming long weekend.  Fingers crossed that we go without a hitch and that the weather is better when she is here!

Weather continues to be horrible in Hong Kong - gray, humid, wet, rainy.

I've discovered a convenience store with a nice candy selection across the street from my new apartment… and it has the exact kind of sour strawberry gummy that I like.  They sell it at a very reasonable price.  This is very dangerous.

I really need inspiration for work dresses.  Currently been having a lot of those "I have nothing to wear" days.

It's become a little ritual for us to get some flowers in the apartment every week or two weeks or so.  We just got a freakishly tall bunch of stargazer lilies that are almost white but for a few light streaks of pink and blush on the outer edges.

My friend gave me a small bottle of Chloe perfume for Christmas and it has become my go-to scent.  I spritz it on myself almost every morning without fail, and give in to the urge and apply multiple spritzes.

I am loving the Criminal podcast and the Death, Sex and Money podcast (I have been listening to these two and This American Life almost exclusively on my walks around town, and on my tram commute to work in the mornings).

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dinner at Ronin

I went out with a few girl friends on Saturday night to dinner and drinks at Ronin, a sister restaurant of Yardbird, which focuses primarily on fish and seafood.   It is a small, narrow space, dim and romantic, with bar seating on both sides.

The set up is great for drinks and dates, but I think it's a little bit awkward for bigger groups, because in order to properly talk to each other you have to play musical chairs (which is what we did for a bit).  However, the restaurant doesn't mind if you stand and it actually is a warm and congenial atmosphere.

The food was very tasty.  We started with an amuse bouche of tofu and tomato.
 Razor clams and seaweed.
 Tender fried chunks of fish with a vinegar jalapeƱo dipping sauce.  This was very good.
 Panko fried eggplant.  The eggplant was very thick, white and tender.
 Octopus with wagyu beef topped with wasabi.
 Deep fried fish with crispy garlic flakes.
 This was phenomenal - wagyu beef with a fresh raw egg, sprouts, and yes, more garlic.
 I am not sure what this was - it was tofu skin and yuzu leaf coating some finely chopped vegetables, served hot.
 This was tender eel served on top of a bed of warm brown rice with soy sauce and pickles.  I also really liked this dish.
 Here we are!
I thought the food was really wonderful - very tasty, fresh, innovative and interesting, though it's probably more of a special occasion venue than an every day dining experience.

8 On Wo Lane
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
*entrance unmarked, it is a black sliding door*
+852 2547 5263

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Korean Brunch at Jin Juu

We had a lovely girls' brunch at Jin Juu on Sunday afternoon, followed by an unplanned but good massage session -- the perfect weekend plans!

Jin Juu, newly opened Korean fusion restaurant in LKF, is offering an interesting Sunday brunch that offers a panoply of Korean items.  I love the wide variety of vegetables and pickled vegetables, as well as the fresh shrimp and salmon, the tasty assorted korean rolls, and the very tasty deep fried tofu and deep fried chicken (dark meat and white meat).

My first plate.
My second plate.  I may have overdone it on the kimchee.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal, and I thought everything was very tasty and fresh. If you opt for only the buffet, it is HK$250 per adult.  If you opt for buffet and hot meal, it is HK$400 per adult.  Beverages are not included.

Jin Juu
UG, California Tower
32 D'Aguilar Street
Central, Hong Kong

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Recent Reads

I think it's time for another reading round-up!  Here are some of the books I've read this year to date.

Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande.  This got rave reviews, but when I first heard what it was about, I didn't think I would want to read it.  Essentially an exploration of what it means to die with grace and dignity,  (no, it's not about euthanasia), the book is about us and our loved ones as we grow old, and frail, and weak, of losing autonomy and responsibility, as our arteries and muscles, and those of our loved ones, calcify and deteriorate.  I read this while on safari in Africa, and for a few days my brain was abuzz with thoughts of death and birth and the cycle of life (making Michael groan and call me "so morbid" - to which I say, so what? Death is a good reminder of life).  The book was not an easy read, but it asks very important questions that every individual in today's modern society should consider.   Advancements in medicine and technology have vastly changed our expectations of what is possible in the face of illness, disease and old age, but in doing so, it has also completely muddled our ability to realize a finite end.

Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.  This book also got rave reviews and she has a bit of a cult following.  Apparently she is booked out months in advance for her organizing and consulting services.  I've also spoken to many friends who have read her book, are reading her book, or have implemented her advice in cleaning out their closets and living space.  After reading her book, the biggest thing that resonates with me is her question, "does this item bring you joy"?  I think the book is not all about tidying and organizing (though it is very much about that too) as it is about living with purpose and discernment, so that you only buy and surround yourself with the things that most matter to you.  Capsule wardrobes have been a big thing of late, but one thing I've learned from living in Hong Kong is that you really need less than you think.

The Big Short, by Michael Lewis.  I've heard the movie is very good, and I do intend to sit down and watch it at some point.  I thought Lewis did a good job explaining the unique and weird circumstances leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, and a select group of the players who were weird enough, or lucky enough, to spot something no one else seemed to be noticing.  The thing I will most remember from this story is how two young college graduates turned barely $100,000 in a Charles Schwab brokerage account into nearly $120 million dollars.  Now that is a phenomenal rate of return.   I hope they're retired and never doing anything else again, because they will never beat that record!  If that isn't a testament to how crazy financial instruments and derivatives really are, then how about the fact that the financial world seems content to continue blithely making derivatives derived from derivatives?  It really does not inspire confidence, but bravo to Lewis for writing about, and continuing to write about, all of the deficiencies in our financial system.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J Stradahl.  This is a fun, whimsical, easy and entertaining read, though overall I found the plot, and especially the relationships, not particularly well developed.  I liked it for the descriptions of food, and the vivid imagery conjured from some of the scenes (including a story involving explosively spicy chili, in particular) will not be forgotten soon.  I also loved the description of heirloom tomatoes, which made me wish I could get to a pretentious hippie organic farmer's market in California asap.  However, I thought the author struggled a bit with the characters, particularly of the mother.

The Good Girl, by Mary Kubick.  Not very good, in my opinion - oversimplified characters that are either all good or all bad, strong, or weak, and as a result of such shallow character development, I found the story rather unbelievable.  It is a strange mix of a story where you want to keep reading to find out what happens, and yet at the same time you wonder why you are continuing, because you don't ever believe you will care about outcome.  Like many novels of a certain persuasion targeting a certain audience, this one features a female character and contains a twist at the end, but… let's just say the twist left me wanting.  As in, it took me a second to process the twist.  And after I processed the twist, my reaction was, "that's it...?"  And so of course the book is getting made into a movie.  Oh, Hollywood.  

It's What I Do, by Lindsay Addario.  This is a pretty fascinating firsthand account of a photojournalist's memoir relating her experiences shooting in all parts of the world during times of conflict.  She has spent time working and living in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya…the story also recounts her personal experiences in times of particular danger, including when she and a few other fellow journalists were kidnapped in Libya.  I particularly liked it because she works in a profession that is very short of women, and her experiences and the unique challenges that she faces shows a kind of life shaped by a profession that very few people have the chance to experience.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett.  I loved this book.  I picked it up not realizing it was actually a collection of short stories and essays, but they are, and they are all wonderful.  Patchett has received a lot of recognition and renown for her novels, some of which, I have to admit, are a bit too fantastical for me.  However, there is no doubt that she is a beautiful writer, and I personally think that nowhere does her skill and voice come out better than when she recounts personal, real relationships.  From stories about her divorce and subsequent re-marriage, to the Catholic nun who was her teacher in grade school, to her deep and abiding love for her dog - each and every essay is an intimate peek into her life but also a lovely example of cogent, compelling writing.

Then Came You, by Jennifer Weiner.  Hmmm.  I read this book in one or two sittings, and was pretty hooked for most of it.  It examines the intersecting lives of three women, an egg donor, a surrogate, and the woman who will adopt the ultimate baby.  The book explores what happens when things don't go as planned in a situation where so many separate, unconnected parties are involved in making a baby.  It raises a lot of thought-provoking issues for this day and age.  However, despite all that, and despite wanting to like the book, I thought it felt a little bit two-dimensional.  I'm not sure why, but then again, I don't think this is the kind of novel that requires you to spend a lot of time delving into character development.  Read it and move on.

Freedom, by Jonathan Franzer.  I finally got around to reading a Jonathan Franzer book.  This is a whopper of a novel, but it went by really quickly.  I was surprised by how quickly I delved into the story and how much I wanted to learn more, to understand the characters, to find out what happens in their lives.  At times the narration is a little too over-the-top and I found it difficult to keep my focus or my sympathies with the character. Patty and Walter and Richard and Joey… every character tries your patience with their utter lack of self-awareness or their self-aggrandizing stream of consciousness, until you want to pick them up and shake them.  But at the same time, you recognize that these are their foibles that make them pathetic and confused and uncertain, and endearing and imperfect and human.

I also went through a Jo Jo Moyes streak, reading Ship of Brides, Windfallen, Silver Bay and After You (the sequel to Me Before You), which I found satisfying to varying degrees.  I believe this leaves only her book, Honeymoon in Paris, for me to read before I can claim to have read her entire oeuvre.

In Summary --

My Current Read:
Hold Still, by Sally Mann.  A memoir, full of very good, beautiful, dramatic, elegiac, poetic writing that makes you yearn and desire and hope and feel all the (life) things.

My Next Big Daunting Read:
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.

My Next Less Daunting Read:
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood.

My Next Fluff Read:
???  Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Street Eats in Mongkok

This weekend I went with a couple of friends to Mongkok to try out some street food and renowned local eats.

Our first stop was at a cha chan teng famous for its roast goose.

 We ordered a roast goose and soya chicken platter with tossed noodles:
 and a roast goose atop a bed of "Portuguese" rice.

 Then we went to a little street stand where we ordered Taiwanese style lemon iced teas.
Then we bumped into a long queue of people waiting to eat strange looking animal intestines on a stick, so we decided to join the crowd and see what it was all about.
 Turns out this is a very famous shop that Anthony Bourdain has previously visited.
 We opted for the octopus, turkey kidney, and pig offal (which I believe is just intestine).  Their marinade is delicious and they smother it with mustard and plum sauce.
 Mmmm, octopus tentacle.
 We then went to sneaker alley on Fa Yuen Street where we looked for the newest Nikes.
Mongkok provides a pretty authentic glimpse into Hong Kong: crazy buildings, tight spaces, overcrowding, and just… a lot going on in general.
 We walked through a lot of streets that were themed - one street was all pet shops, another was all fish shops, another all ladies' clothing.
 After we "exercised" away our morning snacks, we went to try out a restaurant famous for its pineapple buns.

 They sell a lot of things, but their pineapple bun might be the best I've ever sampled.
We also ordered an egg tart, a "yuen yang" beverage (iced milk tea mixed with coffee), and a french toast.
 The slab of butter scared me a bit.  We quickly scraped it off.
We didn't even finish the desserts, splitting everything into three and sharing amongst ourselves.  The pineapple bun really was divine - soft and pillowy on the inside, crispy and flaky on the outside, and not too sweet.
 After that, we ended our food adventure by stopping at Delicious Food, a stand famous for its broiled large intestine and smoky tofu.  We split one tofu among the three of us for HK$10.  I didn't think I could eat more intestines, so opted to just take a picture of it.  Clearly this is a heavily favored delicacy around these parts!
The tofu was really tasty, and not even that stinky.
And there you have it.  It was pretty fun and if I go again I would probably stick exclusively to the street carts as I think those were some of the most standout items…except I'd be willing to make an exception for that pineapple bun.  Ooooh yum.