May 10, 2009

Fukuoka Gourmand

No, Beijing Gourmand hasn't relocated. But I did have some amazing food on a recent trip to Fukuoka, a city on Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu. I had plenty of the more commonly known foods such as sushi, sashimi, shabushabu and tempura, but I wanted to post on some food that might be less familiar to readers.

Jianbing fans will go wild for okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a Japanese savory pancake typically made with mountain-yam flour, egg, cabbage, pork, and chopped onions. There are countless variations on okonomiyaki depending on your tastes (okonomi roughly means "whatever you like"); the above is a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki that includes soba noodles.

Wagashi (和菓子) is the generic Japanese term for confections, which are often served during the traditional tea ceremony. This sweet, called kuri-monaka (栗もなか), had a rice-wafer shell made to look like a chestnut, with a bean-paste jam and whole chestnut filling. The skewer (kushi) is made from a type of wood that supposedly has antibacterial properties.

I couldn't help but smile when I bit into this strawberry mochi (ichigo daifuku - イチゴ大福). I usually find mochi to be sickly sweet, but this had only thin layers of bean-paste and mochi dough wrapped around a plump farm-fresh strawberry. My companion and I achieved a sense of guilty satisfaction by nabbing the last two of the season.

When I posted on eating duck tongue I noted that it wasn't for shock value. I'm afraid I can't quite make the same claim about eating these live whitefish. They weren't actually that gross once you got used to the squirming inside your mouth; they were mostly tasteless, despite being half-drowned in sauce, but did have a shrimp-like texture. The young whitefish are caught in local rivers each spring and available only for a limited time.

March 13, 2009

City Weekend interviews cocktail master Bob Louison

City Weekend caught up with Bob Louison to talk about his upcoming cocktail lessons. Tonight will be the fourth lesson, the third one for Grace and I to attend. Can't wait to try the chocolate Martini and the tanghulu (hawthorne berry) cocktail!

Interview: Cocktail Master Bob Louison Talks About His Dessert Cocktail Class This Saturday

BBC Global Marketplaces: Sanyuanli market

Although I'd caution anyone to take this article as anything more than anecdotal evidence of the state of consumer finances in China, it is interesting nonetheless.

In the video clip,
Café Europa owner Chen Li, takes us on a tour of Beijing's Sanyuanli produce market and explains her views on how the economic climate is affecting consumer food purchases.

Global marketplaces feel the downturn: Beijing

This quote from Chen Li stood out:

Chen Li, who runs a restaurant in Beijing called Café Europa, said she is ordering 20-40% less food from the market. "Usually European customers would have a glass of wine with their lunch. Now they do without," she said.
Beijing Gourmand is no enemy of decadence, but perhaps regularly ordering wine with what one presumes is a working day lunch for the Jianwai SOHO crowd is a cause of poor financial performance rather than a symptom.

February 17, 2009

Spirit 'It' cocktail class

Bob Louison informs me that he and Ariel will be holding a cocktail class this Saturday, 21st February, in the Grand Millenium's Havana Bar from 6-8pm. The cocktail list is still to be finalized but will likely include creative variations on the Martini, Mojito, Bloody Mary and a few surprises. The cost will be 220 RMB. You should contact Bob to reserve a place.

Mobile: 15010352077

Grand Millenium
Fortune Plaza 7, Dongsanhuan Zhonglu, Guomao

Update: photos from the class

February 14, 2009

Beijing's Top Five Watering Holes

Beijing Boyce, the man behind the essential blog for making the most of Beijing's night life, was kind enough to post on my picks for Beijing's Top Five Watering Holes. While you're there be sure to check out the other Top Fives, you might just find a new favorite.

Anyone have a favorite that's not on the list?

Also, Diana Kuan recently posted a cool interview with Boyce on her Appetite for China blog.

February 10, 2009

Time Out's Neighborhood Nibbles

I just picked up the February issue of Time Out, and it has a cool special feature called "Neighborhood Nibbles - The greatest restaurants you've never heard of". There are about 28 restaurants on the list, sprinkled around Beijing, some chosen by the likes of model and restaurateur Li Ai, Hanggai lead singer Yi Liqi and Made in China Chef Jin Qiang.

Some of my favorites made the list (Qintangfu, Guomao Kaochi and Greedy Chicken Wings), and there were plenty of new-to-me hidden gems I'm looking forward to checking out.

It can be hard to find copies of TO this late in the month, so reader's can go here for the E-edition.

January 29, 2009

In high spirits

A few weeks ago Grace and I went to a cocktail making class at JW Marriot's Loong Bar, which turned out to be a blast. The class was put on by Bob Louison, former China Doll 3.3 Manager, and Ariel, who now run Spirit 'It' bar consulting and events company. Beverages were supplied by Grand Marinier and Identity Fruit, a Beijing based juice and smoothie company.

The class learned to make a Cosmpolitan, Sidecar, Margarita, B52, and a creation called Blueberry Night's which featured Identity Fruit's blueberry and apple juice. The class was hands on, and best of all, we got to drink all of our creations.

Bob and Ariel plan on holding regular classes and I'll post about them here in advance for those who are interested; the class is highly recommended for anyone in Beijing who wants to learn how to make cocktails, have a fun date, or just try something new.

Loong Bar has a classy, yet comfortable atmopshere

Each participant had their own set of professional gear

Beijing Gourmand demonstrates proper shaking technique

Grace making a B52 (Kahlua base, then Bailey's, then Grand Marinier -- all poured carefully so they don't mix)

Bob Louison wants to see you behind bars

January 5, 2009

One down, six to go

January 4, 2009

An inconvenient truth about the Japanese diet & The decline of traditional farming

Besides providing insight into the effects of modernization and globalization on the Japanese diet and agricultural system, the above video is remarkable in that it is a rare example of an effective and interesting communication from a government body, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (h/t to The Global Small Business Blog). While Japan has its own unique dietary and agricultural practices, the general trends outlined in this video can be seen from Bordeaux to Baoding.

For more on the decline of traditional agriculture in Japan, see this National Geographic piece: "My neighbor Totoro" ecosystem declining in Japan. The sad thing is that this holistic and balanced approach to agriculture is disappearing at a time when it has never been more relevant.

December 31, 2008

Guijie - Not just for hotpot

Guijie on a chilly night is one of the quintessential Beijing experiences. To the untrained eye the neon lights will appear garish, but to those in the know they give a warm, at-home feeling. And there's something satisfying about walking along the street trying to choose a restaurant, deciding only after a judicious weighing of options, perhaps amongst a group of friends, or sometimes impulsively going into the first joint that piques your whimsy ("Hey, we've never been here before!"). Unlike at Houhai, even the touts aren't enough to spoil a stroll along Guijie, and if anything, they add to the atmosphere.

We normally choose one of the many hotpot options on Guijie, but the week before had tried, and been disappointed by, the Dongzhimen location of Huajia Yiyuan (花家怡园), a restaurant serving "contemporary Chinese cuisine", popular among locals and expats alike. Huajia Yiyuan's
wannabe chic design, shabby furniture, and exceedingly mediocre food left me feeling like the emperor has no clothes. Perhaps the original courtyard location on Guijie proper is better, but personally I'd rather spend my money at any of the Da Dong restaurants.

Trying to put the previous week's disappointment behind us, and wanting to break the hotpot routine, we set out on the south side of the street. The first place of interest we came to was a gift-shop type store selling local delicacies from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. For readers who have been to either of the Mongolias and picked up a taste for milk tea with butter, horse-milk alcohol, or beef jerky (牛肉干), then this is the place to stock up. We got a small bag of the latter and a Yanjing to wash it down with.

Next we went to Zaizai Heiya (仔仔黑鸭), a store specializing in duck and duck offal. These types of stores are usually no more than small windows selling to passerby, but this store had some flair, and even a celebrity following.

Zaizai Heiya sells whole ducks and duck wings, along with duck necks, gizzards, feet, livers, stomach, heads and tongues. We opted for the spicy duck tongues (鸭舌). Duck tongues may gross out some readers, but I didn't choose them for their shock value (I'll leave that to the pros over at Weird Meat). Duck tongues, which are brined, are simply delicious. Hangzhou cuisine has a very lightly flavored version, but these Wuhan style spicy duck tongues were even better. Duck tongues are surprisingly meaty, and unlike duck or chicken feet are relatively easy to eat, with only a small core of soft cartilage putting up token resistance.

Having whet our appetite, we headed across the street to Shougan Mianguan (手擀面馆) for hearty hand-pulled noodles, and the best ganbian siji dou (干煸四季豆) I've ever tasted.