Tag Archives: friendship

A night spanning three continents…

Last night, we had my good blogger friend John, The Wine Raconteur, and his wife over for dinner at our place. The dinner had been a long time in the making, and I am glad we finally got to it. It has become a Christmas tradition in Nina’s parents’ house for me to cook a boeuf bourguignon (beef burgundy) “between the years”, as we call the period after Christmas and before work starts again in early January. I had to tweak my established recipe (over at FX Cuisine’s stunning food blog) a bit, and figured John and his wife would not mind being the guinea pigs to give the new recipe a try.

I have always loved this dish, and pride myself in having mastered quite some skill in its preparation. It is time consuming, with the marinating and dealing with the meat, but it is also so rewarding! This photo is from FX Cuisine, and mine looks pretty much like this (and yes, I do serve it with mashed potatoes as well!):

Boeuf Bourguignon

As a French classic, a Burgundy Pinot Noir is normally a must to accompany this dish, but John had something else in mind. He had recently acquired a bunch of single vineyard reserve Pinot Noirs from California-based Tudor Wines and wanted to share this wine, which was very generous. He knows of my reservations as regards California Pinot Noirs (too fruit-driven, not enough earthy aromas), so he grinned and informed me that this had enough “dirt” in it. And oh boy, it did. We were drinking the 2007 Tudor Tondre Reserve Santa Lucia Highlands. It was such a pleasant surprise: The initial taste was this wonderful earthiness that a light Pinot Noir carries when done right, and it stretched through the mid-palate, only to be taken over a by surprising fruitiness of sweet cherry and berries. This fruit explosion was in no way a problem, it was so well integrated and part of the earthy tones. Just a great wine, wonderful with the meal as well.

After we were done with the Tudor bottle and our dinner, and conversation was flowing naturally back and forth, I was making eye contact with Nina. We had a bottle of Riesling in the fridge, but it didn’t feel right to crack that bottle just now. As John’s wife was describing how much she enjoys Cabernet Francs and has a penchant for big wines (just like Nina), Nina suggested we should open our last bottle of 2007 Tukulu Pinotage. John reported that he had only ever tasted his first Pinotage at a recent tasting and seemed not very keen on reliving that experience (who can blame him, a lot of the stuff sold here is not up to par), but we insisted. Nina and I have had a weak spot for good Pinotage ever since our time in Botswana, were amazing wines from this grape were available. Tukulu quickly became my favorite producer back then, and has remained so since. Tukulu was one of the first wineries in South Africa to be run by black entrepreneurs and deems itself a black empowerment project (granted, I do like the winery for that reason alone!). This particular bottle had been sitting for a while, and Cellartracker kept nagging me that its drinking window was closing…man, was Cellartracker wrong. The wine poured in a gorgeous purplish red, and swirled heavily through the glass. The nose was fresh and enticing, with typical rubber and dirt aromas mixed with red fruit. On the palate, the wine was wonderfully fresh. Great acidity, lots and lots of earthiness, mixed in that unique style that only good Pinotage can achieve with red fruit. Stunning, and by far not nearing the end of its drinking window.

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

A night spanning three continents: North America, Africa, and Europe

Instead of dessert, as is common in our household, we opened a 2003 Vereinigte Hospitien Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Spätlese. You all know my love for aged Rieslings by now, and this one did not disappoint. Petrol aromas in the nose, some mineral aromas and citrus. On the palate, the wine was a stunning mix of toffee and vanilla and underlying acidity and yellow fruit aromas. It still tasted very fresh, and was not on its way to (what I loosely describe as) the more sherry-like qualities of even older Rieslings. By this I am referring to a narrower scope of aromas, and a “thinner” mouthfeel (thanks to Frank for making me explain this a bit more!). I love this stage in a Riesling’s development: still supple and a good mouthful, but turning more towards the caramel side. In general, I find the 2003 Mosel Rieslings are great to drink at the moment, so if you have a bottle in your cellar, give it a try!

All in all we spanned three continents last night. Add in that we talked about our Asian trip as well, and we can make that four. I love how wine can do that, so easily. But as always, the best wines are worth nothing if not had in delightful company.

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Reuscher-Haart Rieslings: Another Perspective

Reuscher-Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen

I have not written about Reuscher-Haart wines in a while (mainly because I am out of their wines…which is a shame), an estate led by young and energetic winemaker Mario Schwang. The winery is very much into eco-sensitive wine making and the wines have never failed to impress me. The best thing about them is that they are also still very affordable. I wrote more about the winery here and compared their entry level Riesling here.

A couple of months ago, my fellow blogger Mariusz of Kawa & Vino (he also wrote a guest post for my summer blogging series, see here) asked me for some German wine recommendations. Reuscher-Haart was among the ones I suggested, because they fit a student budget. Over the last weeks, Mariusz has finally (!) gotten around to trying some and I liked his review so much that today I want to invite you to go and check it out. It is a beautiful hommage and gives you a second opinion which can always be helpful.

His article starts:

Although I live in Germany, for a long time our domestic Rieslings only rarely have been guests in my house. Rather I often tried those from Austria, Serbia, Czech Republic, France, and even Poland, with its first wine experiments since the World War II. There was no particular reason for this behavior, or maybe I was just not ready to appreciate the spectrum of expressive sweetness present in German Rieslings.

Continue reading…

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Why I love Korean food so much…

Korean food is one of the big loves of my life. While Nina and I were in Thailand, she kept informing me that for her, it is Thai food that beats any other food. When she looked at menus, she wanted to try everything on them…literally, everything. She loves the smells, she loves the flavors, and how everything comes together.

During our 28 hours in Seoul on our way back, I was immediately reminded that it is Korean food that does this for me. The city was full of food smells, and I was craving, craving, craving everything.

One of my favorite spots in Seoul: Doksugung, a palace opposite City Hall in the heart of Seoul.

One of my favorite spots in Seoul: Doksugung, a palace opposite City Hall in the heart of Seoul.

I went to Korea around this time of year 13 years ago for love, and fell in love with the country, its people, and its cuisine. There is a simplicity that is not boring, and an honesty in Korean food that I greatly appreciate. Many dishes just contain a few ingredients. The flavors are far from simple, because they are actually rather layered, but it is a modest approach (except for the insane heat in a lot of dishes). In East Asia, they have a saying that pretty much states that Japanese food is pretty, Chinese food tastes good, and Korean food fills your stomach…you get the idea. Korean meals are communicative, usually served family style with the senior party member ordering the food.

I was working at a consulting firm at the time, and the great thing about that was that I got to try all sorts of food, because we would always go for lunch in a group of people, and I was always the youngest member so had no real authority over what I was going to eat. I was exposed to soups and stews, for which Korean cuisine is rather famous: from the fermented cabbage based Kimchi jjigae to the the SPAM, ramen and hot dogs containing budae jjigae (literally “Army Soup”, invented after the Korean War – I am still a big fan). We would eat all kinds of grilled meats and fish, with dipping sauces, from the famous Bulgogi (marinated beef strips that are grilled at the table) to squid and steaks on the same grill. The possibilities were endless, and I got to try a lot of them.

Kimchi Jjigae (Photo credit: Wiki Commons)

Kimchi Jjigae (Photo credit: Wiki Commons)

Moving back to Germany, it was virtually impossible to get good Korean food. I actively sought out Korean restaurants in phone books, but when I went, they were usually Korean-run places that had a big generic Chinese food menu, with a half page in the back that read “Korean specialties”. It was frustrating and pathetic. I guess there never was a real market for real Korean food. Germans like to go to Chinese restaurants (which have nothing in common with actual Chinese food), but Korean? Way too exotic. No one would go because, as a German saying says: “The farmer doesn’t eat what he doesn’t know.” Whatever Korean food I was able to get in restaurants, was usually ok, but never really as mind-blowing as I was used to. There are a few exceptions in Germany, Frankfurt being one that offers decent Korean food (notably the restaurant “Shilla”). Berlin now has a trendy and hip and very delicious Korean restaurant called “Kimchi Princess”.

Luckily, I had and still have my dear friends ManSoo and his wife Hyekyung in Trier, where I was living. They kept my love for Korean food burning by inviting to dinners with all my favorite foods, bulgogi, japchae (a glassnoodle salad), spring rolls,  Kimbab (the Korean sushi roll) and more. These home cooked meals were highlights of my months. The coolest thing though was that since ManSoo always loved Mosel wines, he began pairing them with Korean food. That was an eye opener! These fruity Rieslings with residual sugar matched the strong and pungent flavors of fermented cabbage, fermented soy bean paste (those Koreans really like to ferment!), and the acidity cut through all the heat in some dishes. Just incredible. We would have elaborate Korean dinner parties with tons and tons of Riesling and it was just divine. Some of my best memories of my ten years in Trier are connected to these evenings and the friendship they expressed. They also provided the communal aspect to Korean food, which I had missed as well. The best thing about these dinners was that we combined my love for Riesling with my love for food. Just like with friends: Being able to make your two best friends really get along well is just awesome and furthers the bond.

So when I got back to Seoul, this time around, I had contacted the secretary at the firm I worked at in advance, and she was excited to see me (she did remember me!). We made plans for lunch. She also told me that I should contact the now retired partner in the firm that was my boss during my time there. He immediately replied that he wanted to take Nina and I out for dinner…I was really startled and humbled by them remembering me (I only worked there for 5 months) and wanting to meet up. I had told Nina a lot about true Korean food (we have been to Korean restaurants in the States, and while some deliver on flavor, it is still a different experience) and its customs and culture, so she was eager to try it out…

We met for lunch with Ms. Song (and her daughter, who was 7 when I was in Korea last!) at Sariwon, a group of several restaurants that are famous for their bulgogi. After hugs and a ton of excitement of seeing each other again, our table started to fill up. And that is one of the things I always loved most about Korean food. While you do get “main courses”, the restaurants always provide between 6 and 10 different little snacks, called banchan, from steamed spinach to kimchi to little dried fish to water radish kimchi to sweet potatoes in hot sauce…the number and range of different banchan is incredible. Best of all, there is free refills on all of these. If you are done, you just tell the waitress to bring more. They are provided for free by the restaurant! (This is the biggest difference to Korean restaurants abroad, where, if you are lucky, you get 4 to 6 banchan, but they are, if at all, only grudgingly refilled.) Ms. Song had also ordered bulgogi for all of us and a soup/stew for her and her daughter and two other dishes for Nina and I….it was a grand feast! Just what I had been missing for all these years…it was wonderful. The food tasted great, the company was wonderful, and time just flew.

THIS is what a table in a Korean restaurant should look like...at Sariwon.

THIS is what a table in a Korean restaurant should look like…at Sariwon.

For dinner with my former boss, we went to a very fancy restaurant called Yongsusan, a group of several highly acclaimed upscale Korean restaurants (they have one branch in Los Angeles San Francisco!!). This was a completely different, yet familiar ceremony for me. This menu contained 9 courses (I believe), and we sat in a private room of the restaurant. We drank traditional Korean rice wine (called makkoli, which only has 6% ABV) and enjoyed highly sophisticated dishes of ancient Korean royal cuisine. This was much more refined than anything I had tried before. Forget the heat, forget the pungent smells and flavors. This was all refinement and focused flavors. It was divine.

Most of all though, and these meetings in the city I love, brought one thing home. I love Korean food, and always will. And I need to go to Korea more often for my fix of it, because nowhere comes even close…

Post-lunch happiness at Sariwon.

Post-lunch happiness at Sariwon.

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