Wineweek 156: Good Morning Shanghai

I’m actually not yet in China, but in a few days time I can say those words – Good morning Shanghai! I used to visit frequently, for business you know. But in the past five years, our encounters have been too few. I am looking forward to roaming around the old quarters again, snapping photos and snacking on street food. This is a bit of an unusual trip, as I am not traveling with M, but we have done the travel planning together so I am quite sure it will be a success anyway. I thought I would share a few of these tips with you even before trying them. My camera finger is just itching to get down to business.  Continue reading “Wineweek 156: Good Morning Shanghai”

Wineweek 154: The Great Fall

I have not written in a week. What a fall. This is the first time since I started blogging three years ago that I do nothing during the week. However, we all need to be merciful to ourselves. When its a bit tough, rest is the best choice. I don’t want to learn the hard way. Sleep and good wine are the best cures to a starting fall exhaustion. Continue reading “Wineweek 154: The Great Fall”

Wineweek 112: Christmas Eve – Thai Style

This year, it has not felt at all like a traditional Christmas. At all! We just discussed it yesterday: no decorations at home, no Christmas food, no carols. This has been very convenient, as we (M) do not really care that much for Christmas. We utilize the holiday period to spend some time somewhere warm, usually in South-East Asia. And this year again we traveled early to avoid the tourist rush. But it is quite uncommon that Christmas slips by almost unnoticed. Proof that we have been way too busy this fall. Continue reading “Wineweek 112: Christmas Eve – Thai Style”

At Greenwich Market

My recent trip to London was almost wine-free. So this week, I don’t have so many stories to share about the main topic of the blog. But street food is almost as good right? To love wine is to love all things good and tasty. Greenwich market is not your typical London tourist hangout. There is still something very genuine about it. Continue reading “At Greenwich Market”

Wineweek 106: Sweet Sweet London

The weekend has been short but relaxing. I don’t know if I even mentioned it, but I have been in London, spending some time with my big sister who lives there. She does not drink, so I have not had much wine (just a bottle of Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc), but it has been a sweet weekend with a lot of girl talk, retail therapy (shopping) and long naps. I have been working my ass off all fall, so I really needed those naps. Now I am sitting on the SAS flight back home ready to take on the world again tomorrow. . Continue reading “Wineweek 106: Sweet Sweet London”

Bangkok at Night

This is not a wine post. But I really like the vibe in Bangkok at night, so I thought I would share some photos. Now I have a good camera in my hands, it is just the photographer that is an amateur. Here are a few shots that I think capture Bangkok the way I see it after dark.

Yes, I know I have said I would not spend that much time on photos…no excuses, I am weak.

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Lights at the night market
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Fresh fruit juice 24h a day
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These ingredients turned into a tasty plate of fried rice
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Taking a break
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The local pub
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The lamp shop
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Motorcycle taxi taking a break
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Happy kitchen
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Eating out
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The remains of the Soi 38 night market
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At the Okura lobby bar. There is someone reaching for our snacks..

The pictures were taken with a Nikon D5500 and 50mm lens.

xx Soile

At the Shanghai Night Market

It has been a fussy month. I have not had time to post as much as I would like to. However, that is the way it is sometimes. Family and work (the actual paying one) come first and fun (blogging) later. So this post about our wonderful street food tour comes with a bit of a lag. Looking back at all of the pictures it feels like yesterday.

When visiting Shanghai in the beginning of this month, we had booked just one tour: a food tour of course, through the night markets of Shanghai. Even though I have visited Shanghai many times, street food has never been on the agenda, so we turned to a company called UnTour for acting as our guide. They have received excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, and I must say I am not surprised at all why. We met up with our guide, Mitch, and 15 other foodies in the early hours of the evening (18:00). We had been told to wear comfortable shoes (as the term “wet market” does not refer to drinking) and casual clothes; and of course to arrive hungry. And hungry we were.

The buzz at Shouning Road
The buzz at Shouning Road
Crayfish staring back at me
Crayfish staring back at me
Delicious coconut dessert
Delicious coconut dessert

We started of at Shouning Lu (road), a street full of food stands mainly focused on Chinese barbecue skewers and local seafood (a lot of lobster). They call it lobster, we in Sweden would call it crayfish. We looked around a bit while our guide went around ordering different foods and then we made our way to an upstairs restaurant for having our meal in peace. A large plastic sheet was placed on the table and we were handed rubber gloves. I presumed this was going to be messy (good that I wore those casual clothes), and messy it was. We snacked on cooked lobster and around eight different meat and vegetable barbecue skewers (kebabs). They all had the same spice mix and were absolutely delicious. We also had some oven cooked eggplant with bread and lot of garlic. That was perhaps my favorite dish of the evening. For dessert we tasted Chinese puddings. Everyone tried about five or six different ones with flavors like mango, coconut, pineapple, tofu and tarragon. Some of them were not to my taste (like the bean curd), but especially the ones with wonderful sweet mango were fabulous.

We continued our journey through the streets of Shanghai towards another food market located next to Yu Garden stopping only briefly to sample some fresh lychee and hand-pulled noodles from North-China. We were also introduced to Jianping, a delicious local pastry with pepper and sesame filling. It was both sweet and salty at the same time and so absolutely mouthwatering that we went back to Shouning Lu the next day and bought three boxes to take home.

Jianping pastry with pepper and sesame filling
Jianping pastry with pepper and sesame filling
Not sure what this is but it looks delicious
Not sure what this is but it looks delicious
Tsingtao Beer with Chinese food is a perfect combination
Tsingtao Beer with Chinese food is a perfect combination

For the final leg, we tried out some more noodle and rice dishes, pizza-like local snacks and barbecued duck-neck. All the dishes were naturally served with Tsingtao beer. With its fresh taste and low alcohol content It is the best partner for Chinese street food.

All in all it was an amazing tour. It was a shame that we did not have any more spare time as UnTour also organizes breakfast and dumpling tours. The guides speak both good English and Chinese (they are mostly westerners who live and study in Shanghai) and it was wonderful chatting with them about how it is to actually live in the city. I used to dream about an expat job in China you know. It is the place where a lot of the action is these days. Shanghai in general is a wonderful food destination. You can sample Chinese food from all the different provinces in China. It is as different as sampling all the different European cuisines. So if in Shanghai, don’t be shy to try out as many as you have time for. An organized tour is a good place to start.

Wineweek 10: Bangkok Edition Vol. 2

Greetings from sunny Koh Samui! Its nice and hot here, feels much warmer than in Bangkok (temprature is actually pretty much the same). I guess it is the humidity in the air that really makes the difference, and it makes me crave for some cold, dry and sparkling even more. It was to be expected, but the selection of wine here on the island is even worse than in the Capital, obviously. However, in such a sauna, beer tastes almost as good. So we have stocked up with some local and local-ish (read: Asian) beer to keep the thirst at bay. I actually prefer to have my beer from cans. Like Coka Cola, it just tastes better from aluminum, or what do you think? But back to Bangkok for a while, the island edition is coming up next week.

We were so overly excited to find a decent wine bar in Bangkok, that we published a review immediately. You can find Ms review on the @494 at the Grand Hyatt here. We were equally offput by a Romanian sparkling wine we bought at the store, that we posted a Wine warning. A Wine warning will be issued when a wine has the look of something drinkable, but majorly disappoints when tasted. Some wines you already know will not be good, like many bag inbox, so you just have yourself to blame if you put it in your mouth. But the devious wines that manage to trick their way into my glass, they are the ones that will get a Wine warning.

What else did we do in Bangkok this week? We went to some very interesting restaurants. We had not planned for much fine dining, but it was much easier to reserve a table in the Bangkok top spots than one could have thought. We picked three interesting restaurants from the Asias To 50 -list (2015): Nahm (#1), Gaggan (#3) and Issaya Siamese Club (#31). The restaurant ranking lists are a bit tricky, and we found ourselves disaggreeing heavily (with the list, not eachother) on which one should come first. We will write some separate reviews on all of them, but I think it is worth mentioning here how we placed our votes.

Ambience:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Food:
1. Issaya Siamese Club/ Gaggan (50/50 vote)
3. Nahm

Service:
1. Issaya Siamese Club
2. Gaggan
3. Nahm

Issaya Siamese Club was a beautiful, unique and very customer oriented restaurant that was very strong in quality produce and talented cooking. The only minus could be that it was hard to find, but perhaps we can only blame ourselves trying to be very Scandinavian and walk there (google maps really let us down). Gaggan is a restaurant doing Indian fusion (or progressive Indian as they call it), a style of food that has failed me many times. With a chef who used to work at the famous El Bulli’s food lab they do a bit of hokus pocus but still with focus on flavors and that it should taste good. There is an Indian twist, but not too forceful to take the focus off the culinary experience. This is very hard to achieve, so thats why M and I disaggreed on the first spot for food in our ranking. Nahm was good, but nothing that stood out from a good hotel restaurant anywhere in the world. Service in general lacks behind Europe and the US, but perhaps it is also how we want to be served compared to what the local culture considers valuable.

As I mentioned before, the lack of wine would perhaps be compensated by some refreshing cocktails. In general, I must say I was a bit disappointed at many bars we looked at. Even the Speakeasy on the rooftop of our hotel, The Muse, that was supposed to be one of the best in town was very average. I guess they ranked it based on the view. Cocktail list consist mainly of Mojitos, Martinis and the occasional Sex on the beach. This is what I can get at the local pub, equally boring and poorly made. I guess I was hoping for some nice fruity Daiqiris and a lot of stuff with lemongrass and ginger. But the three restaurants mentioned above did not disappoint in this area either. Gaggan had several pages of drinks under the title Mixology (yes a lot of smoke and dry ice) and Issaya walked the extra mile in both fresh ingredients and look of the cocktails. So we cast aside the wine lists and had some coctails together with our food. I am not a huge fan of the concept, but especially with some spicy Thai cuisine, a fresh cocktail works better than many wines.

Thats it for Wineweek 10. Next week will bring some more beach to the picture with posts from Samui. You can also expect more on street food, reviews from London (to keep up the focus on wine) and Ms coffee reviews. Btw. Did you know that coffee has around 1500 different tastes as opposed to wine having only 200. That my friends is why coffee deserves its own reviews. It is such an interesting subject that we have taken it as permanent part of our blog.

Wineweek 9: Bangkok Edition

Good afternoon from one of my favorite cities in the world, Bangkok. Why do I like it so much, hard to say exactly, but it has something to do with the controlled chaos, excellent food and friendly people, not to mention the warm weather. Perhaps this edition of Wineweek in pictures will give you a small taster of my Bangkok.

This weeks edition should rather be called Lack-of-wine-week. Thailand is not a country for wine. Not because they don’t have any, but rather because the prices are not reasonable. As I read up, it seems that wine is very heavily taxed to support a thriving local beer industry. Also, my experience with Asian countries is that the taste of the locals for both food and drinks is just different. So would a local enjoy a nice California Pinot Noir? They might prefer the taste of the local whiskey. We have come across numerous wine-bars, but none of them are really inviting to the winecurious. Yes they can look nice, but the knowledge on wines is at the level of a ten year old and you pay closer to 10 Euros for a glass of cheap Chardonnay. A waste of money at least for me. This is why we have kept to mainly beer and coffee to satisfy our tasting needs.

The benefit about being passionate about something is that it gives you that extra motivation  to go to great lengths to satisfy your curiosity. The concept of travelling changed for me when I met M. I was well traveled even before, but I did not venture that much outside of the tourist areas. Not really. Of course, young and smug, I made a big deal about seeing the world, but I did not have any real agenda. What was I there to see? Now we travel for a purpose and not only to fill the passport with stamps, the purpose being wine, coffee and food (and I don’t object to warm weather). Most of the week here in Bangkok, we have ventured to cafes and eaten street food. We have navigated through small neighborhoods to find the hidden gems populated by the Thais and expats alike.  Specialty coffee is surprisingly popular and we have found many places that make fantastic pour overs, aeropresses and cold brew (that’s coffee geek language for filter coffee). M has been ecstatic and he has already written closer to ten reviews he wants to publish on coffee places. Perhaps we should start calling this blog the Coffeecurious. Many of the best coffees we have had have been made with Ethiopian or Guatemalan beans, but Thai coffee is also taking a step up and there are many local roasters who do single origin coffees from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai (Northern Thailand).

The other topic that is close to my heart is the food here in Bangkok and I am not talking only about curries and friend rice. We have had great traditional Thai street food: skewers, spiced sausages and banana pancakes and also a lot of other Asian food. There is a large population of Japanese expats contributing to a great deal of izakayas, sushi and ramen places. We also had some fantastic Korean barbecue. Most of the food we have had has cost between 1 and 5 euros per meal. We have spent much more on coffee. Tomorrow we will try some local fine dining at Nahm and Issaya Siamese Club which are both on the list of Asias 50 best restaurants. Even though we labelled this trip as a street food festival, the prices for tasting menus were so tempting that we couldn’t resist. Comparing to London and especially Sweden a tasting menu at a top restaurant costs one third of that of Europe and the US. I am not expecting the wine list to be as tempting, but who knows, I will not judge before I see it. The downside here is that the restaurants do not display much prices on their website, so we have no idea what to expect of drinks.

The journey continues in Bangkok for a few more days and after that we will retreat to Ko Samui for some well deserved beach time. I have been there once around ten years ago, so I am sure it has changed (to even more touristy). However, I have some great memories from beach restaurants having fantastic curries (and sipping on buckets of drinks, but no more about that in this blog), so some food posts are imminent.