In the write-up of my quick dinner at Kau Kee I mentioned the genre of foodie recommendations for places like Hong Kong that is often seemingly predicated on running down any place that is too well-known or too often recommended to visitors. This is especially true of casual, down-market restaurants and stalls. Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with this per se: many places that show up on lists show up on lists because they show up on lists, and it can be useful to receive—if difficult to parse—counter-narratives. But when these counter-narratives are presented by people who are not residents of those places but themselves visitors, something else sometimes/often comes into play: the fantasy that one is not a tourist but a traveler—altogether more cosmopolitan, almost local. Continue reading
On this trip to Hong Kong I did on multiple occasions something I hate to do at restaurants: I stood in line. I hate to do it not because I am too good to stand in line (though that’s true as well) but because I am too impatient to stand in line; plus when you’re in a foreign city for a limited number of days, spending a good chunk of your time in line for food doesn’t seem like the best use of it. (I don’t count waiting for a table at dim sum in this context as that’s a given unless you’re at the rare place that takes reservations.) But if you’re in Hong Kong and you like Cantonese food you’d be silly not to eat a lot of noodles in soup, and at a lot of the places that sling it you’re going to have no option but to stand in line. Thankfully, at none of those places will you have to stand in line very long. As I noted in my review of my lunches on my first day at Tsim Chai Kee and Mak’s Noodle, when you make it in you’ll be seated at a small table with many strangers and you’ll expected to order quickly, eat quickly, pay quickly and fuck off quickly so that they can keep the line moving. And so it was at Kau Kee. It was the longest of the lines I stood in (well, until Tim Ho Wan on my way to the airport a week later) but it moved rapidly*. And when I got inside and got my bowl of noodle soup, I was very happy. Continue reading
On my previous visit to Hong Kong, I ate the best dim sum I have ever eaten. That was at the Michelin-starred Lei Garden in the IFC mall. On this occasion my friends in Hong Kong—well, one of them was out of town that weekend—insisted I go instead to an older-school place, and we hit on Maxim’s Palace in City Hall in the Central area. Maxim’s Palace is one of the few remaining cavernous banquet halls in Hong Kong, still serving dim sum on carts. Over the last decade or so, I’ve become un-enamoured of dim sum on carts—all the best places in the San Gabriel Valley switched to a la carte ordering over that period, following the lead of the better Hong Kong places. But my friend insisted and since I was curious to see what cart dim sum at a high-end place in Hong Kong would be like I did not resist. Continue reading
I really need to get better at putting up trip food reports quickly. We were in Scotland and London in June and I’m not yet done with my reports on Scotland and haven’t even started on our London meals and whisky experiences. As I’m now on the more relaxed portion of my current travels in Asia, I’m going to try to get a few more of these out this month so I’m not still writing my Hong Kong, Bombay and Delhi reports from this trip next June. Though, as I’ve said before, it is nice to relive trips in this way many months later. In that vein, here is an account of a relaxed lunch at the Mash Tun, a very well-known inn and whisky bar in the town of Aberlour. This was our last meal on our weekend in the Speyside. After this our friends returned to Edinburgh and we went north to Dornoch and Orkney. Continue reading
Here is a report on one of the last meals we ate out in the Twin Cities before I left for my current trip to Hong Kong and India (I’m now on the last leg, in Delhi after a week in Hong Kong and five days in Bombay). This was a rare Korean outing for us, at Sole Cafe. Sole Cafe is located on Snelling, a few blocks from University Avenue—which was, as you may recall, proclaimed by plebiscite the Twin Cities’s true eat street (or at least unilaterally by me). We have not been inclined to eat Korean out much since we got here. The reasons for this are two-fold: 1) the missus cooks it at home; 2) the places that were described to us as the Twin Cities’ best we found to be just about whelming—such were Hoban in Eagan and the food counter attached to Dong Yang in Columbia Heights. The less said about the erstwhile Rabbit Hole‘s Korean food the better. However, in recent months a number of people have recommended Sole Cafe to us and so we decided to finally give it a shot. We were very pleasantly surprised by the meal. Continue reading
Maybe you thought my previous slideshows of Hong Kong food markets (here and here) and so forth were excessive and uninteresting. In that case you will really love this slideshow of pictures I took on the streets over the rest of my week-long trip. There are more than 100 of them and none of them are of subjects of any broader significance other than the fact that they caught my (untalented) eye. One of the things I was really struck by in Hong Kong is the verticality of the city. Given the premium on land, buildings go up very tall and very narrow—rather vertiginously so in many cases. One of my favourites is an unremarkable building in Central which is just about a room thick (it’s the not only one of its kind that I saw). I also really like to take pictures of posters and ads on walls and that’s another major genre below. Also featured are the Ladies Market in Mong Kok and other markets and street scenes in Central. I’m putting these up for now without any captions—I’m in Bombay and busy taking unnecessary pictures here too; if any of these interest you, come back later to see what they’re of and where they’re from. Continue reading
I leave Hong Kong today and so it’s time to finally post my first food report. I’ve been eating like a maniac ever since I arrived—literally, since I arrived: the first thing I did at the airport was eat dumplings at Crystal Jade. As I’m traveling alone on this trip—and as my friends in Hong Kong have busy lives—most of my meals during the days have been eaten solo. And one of the genres that I have been hitting up a lot is one that we could not really do as a family on our last trip in 2016: small establishments that dish out variations on noodle soup and wontons. It’s hard with a family because you invariably have to queue up, then you get seated at very cramped tables, probably with strangers and you’re expected to order and eat quickly, pay and fuck right off so the line can keep moving. With small kids all of this is a challenge. On my own though it’s been very easy. Continue reading
On Sunday I posted a slideshow of images taken on walks around my hotel on my first day in Hong Kong. This may have led you to believe that there would be a separate report for every day after that as well. But when not in meetings, I’ve spent most of my time walking around the city and taking photographs rather than posting them to the blog. But as they pile up in my folders I remember that I’m not yet done posting reports on my trip to Scotland in the summer; and so faced with the prospect of reporting on this trip for the next two years, I’m going to try to speed it up a bit. Accordingly, here is a slideshow of pictures of fruit and veg taken at roadside markets and stalls. Hopefully this will mollify the vegetarians among my readers who may have found the meat pictures in the previous Hong Kong post to be a bit much. Continue reading
The Midtown Global Market was the first place I ever ate at in Minnesota. This was a little less than a year before we moved to Minnesota, and just a few months after it opened in May, 2006. I was visiting St. Paul on work and my friend Mike and I drove over to check it out. I got some wonderful octopus tacos from La Sirena Gorda and Mike got tacos from Los Ocampo’s counter, if I remember correctly. It was a vibrant, fun space and it made an impression on me that was quite different from the image of Minnesota I’d put together from my years in the western US. (This impression was bolstered later that weekend at a meal at Saigon in St. Paul.) A few months later we had to decide whether to remain in Colorado or make a jump to Minnesota, and this impression of a culturally diverse Minnesota helped make up our minds—it also probably didn’t hurt that it was very warm in the Twin Cities during my visit in early November, 2006.
Well, November isn’t always warm here, and La Sirena Gorda, alas, is long gone—as are some of our other early favourites there—but the Midtown Market is still going strong, with new food outlets and merchants who are excellent in their own right; indeed, it seems very entrenched now in the local scene. Here is a quick look at it for the benefit of those who have somehow never been, or have not been in a while. Continue reading
After an exhausting day of travel that included flight delays and damaged baggage before I even got on my 15 hour flight from LAX, I finally arrived at Hong Kong on Saturday morning, feeling a bit like damaged goods myself. And extra surly as—unlike in 2016—I’m here by myself this time; and unlike some people, I do not like traveling alone.
I was greeted by a massive, snaking line at immigration but it moved surprisingly quickly. Emerging with my suitcase (thankfully not beat up further), I made a beeline for Crystal Jade and applied some excellent dumplings to my exhaustion. Then aboard the Airport Express train to Hong Kong Station and a quick cab ride to my friend’s home up in the Mid-Levels, to wait out the time till my check-in at the hotel. Drank some masala chai, called my hotel—who were kind enough to give me an early check-in—and cabbed down to Central, to Wellington St. It was lunch time and so setting my bags down, I ventured forth. Continue reading
Back to Scotland, and back to a legendary whisky spot in the Speyside: The Highlander Inn in Craigellachie. We arrived here at the end of a long day. We’d left Edinburgh in the morning, in a convoy with our friends and their kids, and stopped for a few hours at Glamis Castle (lovely tour, lovely gardens). We then drove north to the Speyside via Aberdeen. We chose to go on the big highways because, well, when there’s the option of large lanes in Scotland, you take that option. The plan was to stop at Strathisla briefly on the way to the house we’d rented for the weekend in Mulben and then repair to the Highlander Inn for dinner. Alas, as I once said to Robert Burns, the best-laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft agley, and we found ourselves sitting in a horrendous traffic jam outside Aberdeen, caused by an even more horrendous accident that we eventually passed (an entirely incinerated car in the middle of the highway). There was no question of a distillery stop and so we high-tailed it directly to dinner. The sat-nav had us get off the A96 and onto the A920 right past Huntly and this brought us by some nice country roads up to Craigellachie. The roads were narrow, yes, but without the sheer cliffs and falls to the water by Loch Ness, on Skye and on the west coast to make things tense it was a very pleasant drive. And very nice to pass by signs for distilleries all along the way. There’s no doubt when you’re driving there that the Speyside is the heart of whisky making in Scotland. Continue reading
We ate at Joy’s Pattaya Thai in Richfield last year and thought the meal was decent enough. However, it is still far enough away from us that it never quite made sense to go there over our favourites on University Avenue in St. Paul (shout out once again to the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street). Imagine our surprise then to discover that a second location of Joy’s has been open for almost three years, just off Cedar Avenue in Lakeville, and just about 15-20 minutes from us. This is yet more evidence that you should not look to me as someone who is very up on Twin Cities restaurant openings and so forth (as with whisky, I have lots of opinions but very little information). But while may be slow to learn about restaurants, once we do we are quicker to go out and check them out. Accordingly, a couple of weeks ago we descended on Joy’s Thai with a number of the friends who’ve joined us on our University Avenue outings. Herewith, an account of our meal. Continue reading
I started making potato-leek-cheese gratins as a side-dish at Thanksgiving a few years ago. And while this year I am not roasting a turkey, I’m making this gratin again. There’ll be a slight change though. In the past I have always used crumbled local blue cheese; this year, however, I will be using goat cheese. This because I am not cooking a turkey at all this year: the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving gathering will be roasted leg of goat (two legs, to be exact), and it seems appropriate to goat it up elsewhere on the table as well. This is a really simple recipe—it’s not original: I’ve over time “averaged” a number of recipes I’ve seen online. There are some that have you boil the potatoes first, some that have you do complicated dances with temperatures. I, being a lazy bastard, do none of those things. But the results are tasty anyway. Continue reading
At the end of October I published a little tribute to University Avenue in St. Paul—in my opinion the Twin Cities’s true “Eat Street”. My post covered a three mile stretch from just west of Snelling to just east of Western, stopping at Bangkok Thai Deli. In the comments, Ed Bast recommended Tay Ho, a Vietnamese restaurant just a little further east from Bangkok Thai Deli. Embarrassed that I’d never eaten there, I resolved to fix that right away. Accordingly, we descended on them on the following weekend with two of our friends who often join us on our weekend eating jaunts. Here’s how it went down. Continue reading