Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Our New Way to Start the Day: Green Shakes

There has been a lot of stuff going on in our household lately, which has led to a slight slowdown on the blog posts.  I thought last year was really hectic, with planning a wedding from the other side of the world while signing a big deal a month and a half before the wedding and then going on honeymoon and planning trips to Sri Lanka and South Africa.

But this year has also been really action packed.  I think that's a good thing, and I don't think I would like it any other way, but lately it has felt a little bit much.  We really can't complain though, because life is pretty good.

We are heading to Italy for a friend's wedding in Lake Como at the end of September, even though for budget and sanity and timing reasons we probably shouldn't (but then I ask you, how can you resist!?) and I'm hopeful that (1) we actually do get to go and (2) we get to completely decompress and unwind in front of a beautiful big lake with wine and cheese.  Please please.

Anyway, one of the key new things that we have incorporated into our lives, in an attempt to be healthier and to give ourselves more energy, is green shakes.  My first foray into this practice was a laughable disaster - teaching me the invaluable lesson that not all greens are created the same.  I didn't add enough water, didn't throw in any ice, and at the last minute was inspired to throw in a handful of peas.  The green sludge that morning tasted like an amateur rendition of pea soup gone bad.

Now, though, my shakes (always improvised as I am not keen to follow measurements) usually come out pretty tasty.  And the satisfaction of knowing how many vegetable and fruit groups I've hit so early in the morning?  Maybe nothing else tastes so good!

 I usually incorporate a base of the same key elements, though please keep in my mind my measurements are for two people and I make enough to fill two pint glasses to the brim and a little bit more.

- 1 green apple
- 1/3 cucumber
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 banana (frozen)
- 1/4 of a lemon, peeled
- 1 cup of water, give or take
- 3 medium sized ice cubes

Then after I have my base, I experiment with the additional items of the day, but in the categories of leafy greens and fruit.

For leafy greens I like to add one or two big handfuls of:
- spinach, or
- romaine, or
- rocket, or
- kale, either exclusively or in a mix,

followed by a garnish (1 or 2 sprigs) of:
- parsley, whether flat or curly, or
- cilantro

The ingredients may vary depending on what combination I am using - for example, I find the green juice is much sweeter if I use romaine, so I like to contrast that with something I find a lot harder to take, like green bell pepper.

I read that parsley and cilantro have good blood cleaning properties.  I confess I am not entirely sure what that means... but it sounds so good I feel like I'd be remiss in not trying it.  I've learned from past mistakes that a little of these herbs go a long way.  I feel fairly confident in reassuring you that you do NOT want to feel like you are drinking cilantro juice, no matter how much you love cilantro.

Then after my leafy layer, I like to experiment with my fruits.  I like to use (and try to rotate so I do not overuse the same fruits):

- 1 spear of pineapple, or
- 1 kiwi, or
- handful of blueberries, or
- 1/2 pear, or
- a handful of green grapes, either exclusively or in a mix.

I try to keep all the outer skin on my fruits and vegetables except where it really doesn't work (pineapple, kiwis and bananas).

I have seen recipes that include beetroot, carrots, oranges and mangos (not all together of course) but I find those to be higher in sugar content and I, whether rationally or not, really like my morning shakes to be a soothing light green color.  I know, I am weird.

Sometimes I throw in half an avocado and cut back on the fruit.  That makes the shake a lot more creamy and filling.  I have not yet tried to swap out the banana and/or avocado for yogurt, although that is something I have heard others do and I think it would not be a bad idea to get some more calcium.

Now that I have written out the ingredients list and the process, it sounds like a lot, but honestly, it is really easy and fast, as long as you spend one hour of your week prepping everything (washing, peeling, cutting) and keeping it all in tupperware in the fridge for the rest of the week.

This makes enough and is filling enough for us that we don't need to eat again until lunch.  Of course, I still need my coffee in the morning, but I am not in a hurry to give up on that soon.

Now this is something to which we can all really say, santé!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

One Year Anniversary - Dinner at Serge et le Phoque

Michael and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary this past Monday.   Wow, a year goes by quickly!  Our wedding feels both very close and yet very distant.

We went to Serge et le Phoque, a French restaurant located right at the end of the Wanchai wet market, which sounds kind of quirky and crazy, except that once seated inside it makes perfect sense.  They actually designed the restaurant so that the entire interior wall is lined with mirrors, so you feel as though the wet market is enveloping you from both sides.

I booked it figuring it would be intimate on a Monday night. I have been meaning to try this place for a while, and Michael loves French food - so, win win.
I loved the high ceilings and whitewashed walls of the space.  The chairs are all in a warm green, and they have intimate banquette seating.
We each started with a celebratory glass of champagne to toast.  The champagne was nice, although it bothered me slightly that the restaurant didn't have proper champagne glasses.  They served the drinks in wine glasses, which to me just doesn't contain the same convivial joie de vivre  as the narrow flutes or the coupes.  

We opted to go for a la carte, unwilling on our first visit to relinquish our taste buds and judgment to an all-knowing chef in the kitchen.   The food is a sophisticated and graceful fusion: French with an Asian flourish.

We started with a delightful plate of delicate, sweet ham served in such tissue paper thin slices so as to be nearly translucent.  Coupled with the warm, hearty bread and the salted, rich butter, this is a flavor combination that will have your eyes rolling backwards in your head.  We also sampled the mussels, which were whimsically stacked in size order on bamboo sticks, grilled yakitori style, with a light miso sesame glaze.
 We then proceeded to receive the steak tartar topped with sea urchin and a few petals of micro greens.  The steak had a delightful, robust mouth feel, full of flavor and studded with sharp, bold capers.  In contrast to the raw beef, the urchin was silky, smooth and sweet - like a cool, dainty kiss.
 Then we had razor clams, which were topped with a nearly unidentifiable, crumbly white texture - turns out it was cauliflower!
 My favorite dish of the entire next was served up next - in the unassuming, not very exciting... grilled eggplant.  I know.  It was just the bottom quarter of an Italian eggplant (what do they do with the tops?) with a miso paste and sesame coating, paired with parsley and other herbs.  I didn't even bother to take a close up picture.  But then I cut myself a piece, and all thoughts flew out of my head.  Was this truly the humble eggplant?  It was soft but still firm, incredibly fleshy, flavorful and juicy.  Michael and I both stared at each other wide eyed.  He murmured that if he had not seen the dish first, he would have thought he was eating meat.
 We ordered a game hen topped with corn and paired with a tiny piece of fatty eel.  The portion size was pretty woeful, but it was hearty, rich and succulent.  The greens and corn provided pops of sweetness and lightness that contrasted nicely with the meat.
With dessert came chocolate cake dipped in plum salt from Japan and their famous, famous, not-to-be missed dacquoise - an ethereal, supremely airy almond cookie sandwich filled with whipped vanilla cream and nougatine.  Ooooh, I love it when this cookie crumbles.
We ordered a bottle of French wine to go with our meal.  It was medium bodied, not too fruity, but very smooth.  I thought the wines were a bit expensive, and the portion sizes a bit small, but overall the dishes were precise, complex and delicious.  A good place to celebrate our first anniversary!  We will return.

Serge et Le Phoque
Tower 1, the Zenith
3 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai
+852 5465 2000

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Exploring Sai Ying Pun - "Sexy" Tapas at La Paloma and Drinks and Dinner at Potato Head

To contrast with some of my lower end, budget, local affairs in the 'hood, I now turn to two fancy places that I recently frequented.

I capped off my fantastic mood last Friday with a fun, energizing and somewhat rowdy dinner with a big group of friends and couples at La Paloma, a Spanish tapas joint in Sai Ying Pun.  This restaurant is part of the same group as Fofo by el Willy and I think it is really perfect for a big group of people.  The restaurant is not easy to find (the entrance is on a side street and is essentially through an art gallery).

After that, we went on a hunt for a hip place to hang out, eventually ending up at the newly opened Potato Head after wheedling and pleading and finally persuading them to keep it open for us ("just one drink!").

Funnily enough, I found myself back at Potato Head the next day, for dinner.  In the early evening light, I was able to catch a few more pictures.  I like the space - I think they did a good job capturing some of the beach and surf vibe of the original Potato Head, in Bali.
 Glass with etched white lines, stone, marble, white walls and an open, airy interior channel the sister restaurant, even though there is nary a beach in sight at this location.
 For dinner, I sampled their mocktail, the Coco Loco (which, as far as I could discern, was a fresh young coconut for which they were charging nearly $10 US dollars).  If there truly were flavors of nectarine and other assorted citrus essence, they completely forgot to put it in my drink.
 We chose the gado gado for our appetizer - a very refreshing salad with string beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and tofu, topped with half a hard boiled egg, crunchy bits, and fried pork crackers, I was pleasantly surprised at the mix of textures, and the piquant peanut sauce brought a whole new sparkling dimension to the vegetables.
 Then for our main course we shared the beef rendang with crispy taro chips, and a side of rice.  My friend raved about this dish, and I had actually read great reviews about it too, but I found our iteration very tough, very tough - like jerky.  It was also served at a very unsatisfying lukewarm temperature - leading me to believe that they had recycled this entree, or at the very least reheated it.  The sauce was lovely - full of depth and flavor and a nice slow heat.
Would I come back?  Yes, because I am willing to consider that the beef dish was a fluke, though being served shoe leather at barely room temperature is rather unpleasant.  And I can't really begrudge a place like this for gouging on drinks (shoulda' known).  At least the flavors were consistent and complex and the portions were generous.

La Paloma
189 Queens Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
+852 2291 6161

Potato Head
100 Third Street
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
+852 2858 6066

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dinner at Sorabol in Causeway Bay

Over the weekend I had a chance to go to Sorabol, an oldie but a goodie, to have a very relaxed, mellow catch-up with a couple of girlfriends.  Sorabol has locations in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as in the airport.

We went to the Causeway Bay location, in Lee Theater Plaza, where I experienced a quintessential Hong Kong moment: waiting in line for the elevator.
 Sorabol's decor is not fancy, but I like it.  Simple and homey, and usually pretty packed!

 The menu is in Korean, English and Chinese, with clear pictures to illustrate each dish.  The pictures are a great way to whet your appetite.
 The meal comes with pan chan, lots of little complimentary dishes.  I liked all of Sorabol's pan chan except for the broccoli (they were a bit flavorless) and the marinated vegetables (they tasted a bit sour).  I loved (loved loved) their kimchee (both kinds) and probably ate well more than my fair share.
We ordered a marinated beef bulgogi with vegetables, which was cooked in a broth.
 We also ordered a tofu kimchee jiggae, which was very tasty.
We also ordered a kimchee pancake, not pictured, which was slightly more doughy than I expected.

I was very happy for my Korean fix, and am now, looking at these pictures again, contemplating buying a jar of their kimchee to feed my seemingly never-ending, bottomless desire.

18/F, Lee Theater Plaza
99 Percival Street
Causeway Bay Hong Kong
+852 2881 6823

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Haircut - An Experience at Kim Robinson's New Salon, kr+

I felt the need to cut my hair recently (and, interestingly, having trolled archives on this blog, I see that the urge to cut my hair seems to correlate remarkably well with typhoon season in Hong Kong) and so, without much further ado or consideration, I took the plunge last week.  I was feeling washed out and drab, and I thought a shorter, sleeker look would help me feel more energized and refreshed.

I have tried out a number of salons in my nearly five years here, from the more expensive and high end to the super budget.  I have never colored my hair, but I have gotten it cut, layered, with a straight fringe, with a side fringe, blow dried, and permed.  I have never really loved any of the salons I have gone to, perhaps with the exception of Paul Gerrard.  But I wanted to try something new, and kr+ seemed like the perfect place.

Kim Robinson is the fancier and more expensive parent store, and kr+ is the recently opened sister store that is meant to attract a younger crowd.  kr+ is located practically in my building (convenient), stylists range from HK$450 to HK$600 (reasonable), and they offer a free fix within ten days (good).

My stylist was a young man who listened attentively when I explained that I wanted a short (but not drastic) cut, that I did not want it to flip out at the bottom because I absolutely hate styling my hair and a few impatient strokes with the brush is about all I can manage, and that I wanted a side part with sideswept bangs.  We got into a slight bit of disagreement into the side fringe - he didn't cut as much of one as I would have liked.  I am still contemplating whether I go back and get a fix.

It has been a few days now, and I am still trying it out, trying to decide.  I have gotten comments and compliments on the new style, so I am pretty happy overall.  It has been a nice change not to have so much pressure on my scalp from the weight of my hair.
Oh yeah... random, but they gave me a t-shirt too.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Exploring Sai Ying Pun - Ping Kee Thai Restaurant

So, to continue with more posts about exploration of the neighborhood, I bring you my next local candidate, Ping Kee Thai Restaurant, which intrigued me based on a very enthusiastic review from a blogger located in Hong Kong.  Well, having gone there now, I have concluded that this reviewer has never actually eaten authentic Thai food - or, to put it more kindly, we had different expectations for how we wanted our Thai food to taste.  Michael and I were both, to say the least, underwhelmed by the offerings. 
We ordered a pad thai, a green chicken curry, a red fish curry, a sauteed Thai cabbage and one bowl of white rice. I liked the decor of the place a lot - colorful posters and pictures line the walls, and the lights and wallpapers combine to create a kitschy, warm, homey feel.
There is a grilling bar/station.
However, that is about where all the good things end.  The chicken green curry was incredibly oily - it had a thick slick of grease on top.  The chicken was very thinly and meagerly sliced, and there were no vegetables (save for one piece of okra).
 The pad thai was the most inauthentic version of the dish I had ever seen - sauteed with tomatoes and eggs and cabbage with thick pieces of dark meat chicken, it was so far off the mark of pad thai that my spirits plummeted at the sight.  The noodles tasted like they were tossed in ketchup.  The dish was also very wet - pad thai is not supposed to be a drippy, slithery mess.
The red curry was the only highlight of the dishes - the fish was meltingly tender and flaky, and the red curry had a lovely coconut lightness and red pepper kick that was missing in the other dishes.

The Thai cabbage was tasty, but then again, how can green vegetables stir fried in garlic really fail...? I liked the vermicelli that they sauteed in here as well.
As you can see, the portions are pretty tiny (although that is no surprise in Hong Kong), but the overwhelming disappointment has to be the complete lack of authentic flavor.  We left feeling greasy and a bit miffed that hardly any of the crisp kaleidoscope of Thai flavors were represented. 

Oh, well.  I am still glad that we gave this place a shot - now we know.  You try some, you lose some.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Happy Friday... and A Loving Ode to My Blue Suede Shoes

Hi everyone, hope you have had a nice summer-y week and that August is treating you well.  It's hard to believe it is Friday yet again, but in addition to the usual TGIF cheer, I find myself in a particularly good mood. 

Today struck just the right balance for me: a conversation with my sister both meaningful and mundane before breakfast (but isn't the ease of switching from topic to topic one of the sweetest and most poignant rewards of an intimate conversation with a close, dear one?), just-the-right amount of interesting and ego-boosting (but not tear-inducing or hair-pulling) work on an exciting new deal, a nice relaxing lunch at China Club (ending with a satisfying fortune cookie that read "Your skill will accomplish what the force of many others cannot"), a perfect chance encounter in an elevator, time enough to fit in a yoga class or a cleansing run on the treadmill, and a jovial, gregarious big group dinner with close girlfriends and friends to look forward to in the evening.

To buoy all of that good feeling, I looked down at my feet today and thought, I really, really love my shoes. They are made by Reiss, a bright blue suede color with pencil thin heel and just a few millimeters' breadth over 3 inches tall (yes, I measured them). 
Michael and I had gone shopping for shoes at Bloomingdale's in New York one fraught morning of our completely and utterly non-relaxing "vacation" last month.  I had forgotten to pack heels.  I packed heels fitting for a wedding, and sandals fitting for the pool, and sneakers for the treadmill, and athletic shoes for a hip night out, but what do you know, I still managed to miss a style of shoe I needed. 

Anyway, while we were walking toward the shoe section, he spotted these stacked on a random table and zeroed in on them from many feet away.  I was reluctant for the usual reasons or perhaps for too many reasons (I have never tried Reiss brand shoes before, I don't know if they're comfortable, do they even make good shoes, suede is such a pain, they are still kind of pricey despite being on sale, and most importantly and once more for good measure, are they comfortable?!) but at his urging I tried them on and...

I am now so, so glad that I did! I wish I had bought more Reiss shoes!

They are relatively high (at least for me) considering that they do not have a platform in the front, but I can wear them for the whole day, and I have worn them around Hong Kong (to meetings and lunches) so I know they are dependably comfortable for a certain distance. 

And I have gotten so many compliments on them!  More than any other pump ever.  The color is very eye-catching and fetching and matches many more items in my wardrobe than I expected.  The back is so cool - they have a V vamp cut out which is subtle but adds just the right whimsical, fashionable touch.

All of this is to say, I want more Reiss shoes (and, this post isn't even sponsored)!  Happy weekend, everyone, hope it is a good one.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Exploring Sai Ying Pun - Indian Curry Express

We have been trying to explore our neighborhood a bit more since moving to this wonderful part of Hong Kong called Sai Ying Pun.  It is an eclectic mix of old and new, Western and Eastern, new and trendy and so-old-that-it's-trendy again.  The longer we live here (we moved here approximately 5 months ago), the more I find myself loving the neighborhood.

There are still many restaurants I want to try, but a recent one we visited, that we really like, is called Indian Curry Express, located on Water Street in Sai Ying Pun.
We ordered vegetable samosas, chicken vindaloo, yellow dal, garlic naan, and tandoori paneer.
The vegetable samosas were served piping hot and were the perfect mix of crunchy just-greasy-enough-to-make-you-feel-guilty deep fried exterior, enveloping a satisfyingly-hearty, chewy interior of potatoes, peas and breaded spices.
The chicken vindaloo was oh-so-spicy, with visible chili flakes studded throughout.  The red was a more vibrant color than I am used to seeing, but I attribute this to the distinctly homemade aspect of the dishes at Indian Curry Express.
The yellow dal was also very good, though it was not as creamy as dal I've sampled elsewhere.  While I may not opt for this dish again, something about the rustic simplicity of this dish made me appreciate it, if for nothing than the knowledge that I was not filling myself with ghee or cream or a combination of both.
The naan at this place was simply out of this world.  Served piping hot, the crispy, crunchy exterior studded with little morsels of garlic contrasted perfectly with the pillowy, comfortingly soft interior.  At HK$15 per naan, it is totally worth it.
The tandoori paneer and vegetables were fine, though a bit bland for my taste.  I think next time I will venture for more of their curry and roti dishes and less of the tandoori styles.
I love the homey feel of this restaurant.  The service is very sweet, the signs and menus are detailed and earnest, and the prices are pretty reasonable.  They had no issues with our bringing in a beer from a nearby convenience store.  (We needed it to cool our taste buds after the vindaloo!)

It is open air seating with two fans blaring, so do not expect anything too fancy...
But I would argue that that is the charm of it all.