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Friday, May 25, 2012

Tuscany: Tenuta Torciano Winery

Tenuta Torciano Winery
San Gimignano

Via Crocetta, 18 53030
0577 950055

With only one day in Tuscany, I have no doubt in my mind that we spent it at the perfect winery. At Tenuta Torciano in San Gimignano, we were treated to a private wine tasting with lunch. It consisted of 11 wines, 4 courses of food, and a comedic tasting lesson by Pierluigi. 
Pierluigi is quite animated, and broke off from the typical snobby sommelier stereotype. While being educated on wine, we discovered that a good chardonnay should exude a “cat piss” scent on the nose. After 3 wines down, the table gets giggly and we rave about the 30 year aged balsamic on our plates of salad, cheese, and prosciutto.  
Me, Pierluigi, Dad, Mom
Another 4 wines down and my lips and teeth start to turn a shade of deep purple, stained by Chianti after Chianti. We are presented a slice of Lasagna Bolognese, drowned in a heavy pour of the winery’s truffle oil.  I decide, life isn’t worth living if I can’t have a supply of this oil, so we add a few bottles of it to our order form. It was, by far, the best dish of the trip. 

At about 9 wine samples into the meal, there’s a crescendo of laughter and a lot of chatter. Our next dish is the vegetarian Ribollita Tuscan Soup, with beans and cabbage. Somewhere between sample #10 and sample #11 I lost all sense of table etiquette and devoured the food like a cavewoman.   

After we successfully polish off 11 wine samples each, we are given a dessert wine with biscotti to dunk in it. Followed by a few samples of their fine wine. Thanks to the incoherent scribbles on our note pads, we remember that our favorite wine of the original 11 samples was the Chianti Classico Reserve, and we add it to our order form. 

We leave the dining room and enjoy the fresh spring air outside at the vineyard. I lay on the ground for a moment, marinating in the limbo between tipsy and drunk, while the sun beams down on my dumbstruck wine-stained grin. We thank Pierluigi for our wonderful experience and making us feel like special guests, like family. Back into the car we go. We drive 3 hours to Rome, and I slept for 2. 
Taking a moment.
 *Typically costs $24 for the lunch and wine pairing at Tenuta Torciano

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NYC Chinatown Wedding

NYC Chinatown Wedding
Golden Unicorn

18 East Broadway

Table snacks
The Venue
Not only was it my first traditional Chinese wedding, it was my first real Chinatown experience. I never really venture down to Chinatown, though I fully intend on now making a habit of it. The Golden Unicorn on Broadway was the venue for the reception. We arrived promptly at 6:30 with excitement and anticipation. The food to come would be new and unfamiliar to me. First, I tried raw clam. Surprisingly enough for a new seafood eater like myself, it was pretty good. It had the texture of pickled ginger. 
All the food is served family style on large platters in the center of each table. We were presented a seafood platter with Dungeness crab legs, seaweed salad, fried fish, and jellyfish! The jellyfish looked like thin squiggly glass noodles, and tasted salty with a crunch. Then I tried cooked scallops with seaweed and cabbage. Next up was shark fin soup, a luxury dish symbolizing respect and honor that is served at special events. Although there is controversy about the welfare of sharks, this is a popular dish for the wealthy because of the rarity, flavor, texture, and meticulous preparation involved. We also tried quail, steamed fish, noodles, and a sweet rice dessert. 
Seafood Platter
Shark Fin Soup
Rice Dessert

During the celebration, we launched confetti at the bridal party through long tube shaped poppers. We drank Heineken and admired each outfit change that the newly weds revealed. By the end of the night I had confetti in every crevice of my hair and dress. But I can say I fully enjoyed the traditional cuisine, the hot pink and purple venue décor, and all the festivities. 
Confetti Aftermath

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rome: Bar Mariani

Bar Mariani

Via dei Pettinari, 44

This traditional Italian bar is the backdrop of my business card thanks to the rustic storefront sign perched off the wall contrasting against the clear blue sky. It offers morning espresso, cappuccino and cornetto, aperitivi, and pastries as well. It's untouched by the changing times, refusing to modernize with the trends. I appreciate the simplicity and authenticity of it all. The owner was happy to hear that I admired her shop so much, and gave us an impromptu tour of the back of the bar. It was a mini museum of sorts with old ovens, mixers, and a mortar and pestle from years ago. In its previous life it was a full bakery. I enjoyed hearing about the roots of this quaint bar, and knowing that it holds on to its history in the back room makes me realize how special it is. 
Inside Bar Mariani

In the back room

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prague Street Food

Prague Street Food

If ever I pass a street rotisserie full of golden pigs, I must stop and explore further. In Prague, we stumbled upon many street food varieties but this one was worthy of a try. Over a wood fire pit was a rotating spear, piercing through five giant masses of ham. They shaved a pile of meat on a plate with sliced bread. Simple meat-and-bread basics! To compliment our plate of ham, we got a spätzle-style potato dish with cabbage and ham, fatty sausage, and a round of beers. It was enjoyed on a bench on a beautiful day in Prague.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Prague: John Lennon Wall

John Lennon Wall
John Lennon Wall
Velkopřevorské náměstí, 118 00 Praha

  Students and local youth would come to this particular wall during the communist regime in the 1980’s, and they painted it full of colorful graffiti. The graffiti was mostly proclaiming peace and love, including a portrait of John Lennon and various Beatles lyrics. Over the years, fresh layers of paint covered the original Lennon painting, however the integrity of the wall remains the same. This is a sight for visual stimulation, photo-ops, and perhaps inspiration for your next tattoo!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Prague at Night: U Sudu

U Sudu

Vodičkova 677/10
 +420 222 232 207

With a 24-hour layover in Prague, time was ticking fast and our mission was clear. The picturesque day of sightseeing quickly turned to night and we needed to find a locals bar with atmosphere, authenticity, and most importantly, cheap beer. After a $7 beer at our hotel’s “happy hour”, we were recommended to try U Sudu. The beer was cheap, as requested. A pint was only 40 Kč, which is equal to $2! At first glance it seems like an ordinary pub, until you walk through the labyrinth of brick-walled rooms. Each room has multiple tables, some have foosball, and dimly lit bars. We sipped on Pilsner Urquell, and closed the night with a shot of some kind of green peppermint schnapps. It was an excellent setting for our one night in Prague.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Seoul Markets

Seoul Markets

Walking through the streets of Seoul, I got to experience their market culture. The streets are lined with vendors selling spices, fish, fruits, and kitchenware. The amount of octopus in these markets was frightening for me. I am learning to love seafood, but it’s a slow and steady process. Down one street, a man from a bibimbap restaurant snatched an octopus (bare-handed) from the showcase tank for us to view our potential lunch. Down another street, a women offering a bucket of octopus tentacles whipped out scissors to cut us a sample. The tiny piece had the texture of fresh mozzarella, at least that’s what I was telling myself. It wasn’t bad at all!
Dried fruits and spices
Trying octopus tentacles