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4.329 Grilled Ribeye

-Cycle 4, Item 329-
30 (Sat) November 2013

-Korean-
Grilled Ribeye

2.5

by me

at cabin

-Hoengseong, Gangwon-

with Family

Last minute trip to the cabin.

Dinner with stuff on hand. 

4.328 Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts & Shiitake with Cod

-Cycle 4, Item 328-
29 (Fri) November 2013

-Japanese-
Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts & Shiitake with Cod

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Family

A leftover piece of cod from yesterday (see previously 4.327 Pan-Fried Cod...).  Though kind of a waste here because, after all that work in filleting the fish into big steaks, it fell apart in the stir-fry. 

4.327 Pan-Fried Cod with Ratatouille over Couscous

-Cycle 4, Item 327-
28 (Thu) November 2013

-French-
Pan-Fried Cod with Ratatouille over Couscous

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Family, Nanny 2

Whole cod was on sale at the market, offering me a chance to try filleting a fish for the first time.  In Korea, that particular species is typically available in the form of either chunks for tang (see for example 1.090 Daegu Jiri Tang) or slices for jeon (see 3.200 Saengseon Jeon), never fillets for steaks.  The fishmonger couldn't believe that I wanted to take the fish as is; he asked me three times if I was sure.

Going at it cold, with nothing but vague recollections of things that I'd on food programs through the years, I made a mess but managed to extricate the flesh mostly intact.  My idea of fun.

910 grams of pure meat (almost exactly 2 lbs) at 19,000 won (exactly USD 19 as of today) = 2,087 per 100 g (about USD 9.40 per pound), not quite sure if that constitutes a bargain--by comparison, the frozen pre-sliced cod from last year was 1,980 won per 100 g.  Then again, the whole cod included head/bones for stock/stew, as well as eggs/guts, whatever that's worth, both of which I gave to the mother-in-law, who happened to stop by at the time.  

 The biggest fish that I've ever handled.

Now that I've done fish and fowl (see 3.023 Pan-Fried Duck Breasts...) and frog (high school biology class), I'm ready to move on to reptilia and mammalia.  Seriously, I'd kill for a chance to butcher a cow, or at least observe a butchering up close, because I want to see for myself what the ribeye/sirloin/tenderloin/porterhouse/brisket/flank/chuck look like directly on the animal.


If there's a recipe for the eggs and guts, I don't want to know about it.


Facilitating the task, my Global fillet knife was razor sharp, having never been used since it was purchased over a decade ago.  Matching fish bone tweezers.


One aspect of food shopping that I miss most about America is being able to walk into a supermarket and buy fillets like this--of course, much nicer than this; I especially miss halibut, sea bass, and swordfish.  


For MIL.

Couscous is a North African staple.  Made of semolina granules, the same type of wheat used to make pasta.  In fact, couscous and pasta are often used interchangeably in various countries around the Mediterranean region, including Italy and France.  Steamed or steeped.  Served with meat and/or veggies and/or sauce, often tomato-based.  

By the way, I've decided to stop hyperlinking references to outside sources (e.g., Wikipedia) for definitions of foods and other explanatory issues.  Henceforth, the blog will be self-contained.  Whatever I write constitutes fact.

As easy as Jamie Oliver always claims it to be: couscous + boiling water + EVOO + lemon wedge + salt + pepper...4 minutes...done.

I was finally inspired to make couscous after my recent trip to Egypt (see most recently 4.307 Bean Royale), including stopovers both ways in Abu Dhabi.  3 of the 4 in-flight meals featured couscous as the base staple.  While the various accompaniments weren't that great, the couscous itself held up quite well, much better than pasta/rice/potatoes, which got me to thinking.

Ratatouille is a French vegetable dish.  From Provence, northern Mediterranean.  Typically consists of diced tomatoes, courgette, aubergine, maybe bell peppers, as well as onions, garlic, and fresh herbs.  Stewed or sautéed.  Controversy as to whether everything should be cooked together, as befitting its rustic origins, or separately, to preserve the respective textures of the individual ingredients.  In the Pixar film Ratatouille, this distinction was a crucial plot point, when the novice chef serves the jaded restaurant critic an upgraded/modernized version of the dish--actually invented by famed American chef Thomas Keller--both appealing to professional snobbery and childhood nostalgia.   

Given the couscous, ratatouille seemed an easy and suitable counterpart. 

All in all, a fairly respectable dish.  The cod steaks crumbled somewhat, because of poor searing technique or over-mangling during the filleting or both.  But for a family-style plating, no problem.  Pan sauce with butter and shallots, okay.  The ratatouille, from a generic on-line recipe, perfectly serviceable.  The couscous, excellent.  Even Nanny 2, who'd never in our 6-year history inquired in detail about anything that I cooked, wanted to see the box.  I should incorporate this general formula into my repertoire.

4.326 The Glenlivet Guardians' Chapter: Special Set Menu

-Cycle 4, Item 326-
27 (Wed) November 2013

-French-
The Glenlivet Guardians' Chapter: Special Set Menu

2.5

at The Glenlivet Guardians' Chapter Tasting Event (penthouse suite 3613) (Conrad Seoul)

-Yeouido, Seoul-

with MtG

The Glenlivet is a single malt Scotch whisky.  Founded in 1824, right after the Excise Act of 1823 allowed for the establishment of legal distilleries in Scotland, the first to get a license in Glenlivet. Accordingly, the corporate slogan: "The single malt that started it all."  Famously, the distillery won the exclusive right to use "The Glenlivet" as its trade name, though other distilleries retain the right to use "Glenlivet" (sans "The") as a geographic appellation.  Located in the renowned region Speyside.  Now owned by conglomerate Pernod Ricard.  Currently the top-selling single malt in the US, second worldwide (after Glenfiddich). 

The tallest revolving doors that I've ever seen.

One of my two all-time favorites (along with Springbank).  At The Auld Alliance in Singapore, where I could only taste so much within time/budgetary constraints, I took the opportunity to try an early 1970s bottling--totally different than the contemporary stuff (see 4.266 (White) Carrot Cake).  I almost always get at least 1 bottle at the duty free shop on any given trip abroad (see most recently 4.302 Stuffed Pigeon...).  Usually the 12-year-old, because it's cheap, but also because I enjoy its effortless elegance.  I often refer to The Glenlivet as "my daily sipping Scotch," and it would be, if more widely available and more affordably priced in Korea.  


The Guardians' Chapter is a marketing campaign launched earlier this year by the distillery.  In a series of tasting events hosted across the world, members of the official fan club--"The Guardians"--as well as select members of the general public, have been invited to sample three experimental expressions--CLASSIC, REVIVAL, EXOTIC--and vote on their favorite.  The expression garnering the most votes will be bottled into a limited edition released sometime next year.  No idea what "Chapter" means in this context.




MtG was contacted by the local representative to participate in the Seoul tasting.  Probably in his capacity as a so-called "power blogger," even though the blog isn't ostensibly about whisky or alcohol or beverage or food or anything at all really.  Anyway, MtG got me in, so I was happy to be riding on his coattails. 

The venue was the Conrad Seoul.  

"The Glenlivet Cooler," an aperitif consisting of The Glenlivet 12 "Excellence" (a slightly richer expression developed for the Asian market) + ginger ale--and yes, they did acknowledge that serving a cocktail before a tasting probably wasn't such a great idea.

A promotional affair to be sure, the evening started off with a slide show about The Glenlivet's history, philosophy, FAQs, etc.  Courtesy of Ian Logan, bona fide Scotsman, global brand ambassador dispatched by HQ.

Ian Logan

Next, taking each expression in turn, the participants were asked to describe any discernible flavors/aromas from the sample.  A picture chart with a variety of typical flavors/aromas was provided as a guideline.  After suggestions from the participants, a slide revealed the Master Distiller's own tasting impressions.

The glass on the far left was the aforementioned "Excellence."

I've always suspected myself as having a sensitive palate, but I had no idea how much so until this evening.  For each sample, I could clearly identify the expression's general motif and then detect specific markers.  CLASSIC: round, sweet butteriness, like vanilla, caramel, nougat--exactly.  REVIVAL: delicate, fresh fruit, like pear, apple--exactly.  EXOTIC: spicy, cooked/dried fruit, like fruitcake, marmalade, raisins--exactly.  As if I were working off a crib sheet.  

CLASSIC

REVIVAL

EXOTIC

Over a decade ago, when I was living in California and obsessed with wine, I'd made a concerted effort to build a sense memory.  Tastings at organized wine events, samplings directly at wineries in and around Napa and Sonoma, and of course sloshings at home and in restaurants/bars, I was recording mental notes.  After awhile, comparing my personal impressions to professional reviews, I began to recognize that, say, the whiff of X in a wine equates metaphorically to "chocolatey" in enological parlance--because obviously the wine doesn't contain any actual chocolate--or Y means "peppery," or Z means "fruity/leathery/whatevery." The self-training must've stuck.

Ultimately, I went with REVIVAL because it seemed to embody best what I love about The Glenlivet, why I drink it more than any other malt; then again, I can see why an out-of-character expression may be more preferable for a limited edition.

On the way home, I couldn't stop gushing.  While MtG dismissed the excitement as obnoxious braggadocio, I was genuinely grateful the long-standing confidence in my gustatory/olfactory faculties had finally been confirmed, the same way that I'll react when I get my Mensa card.  


As for the food, I wasn't very impressed.  Despite the hoity-toity descriptions on the menu and the 1st-year culinary school platings, some incorporating actual whisky from The Glenlivet, the dishes ended up tasting/looking like items from a business-class in-flight meal.  I would've expected more from The Conrad, especially for an event like this.

bread (2.5)

Foie Gras Terrine (2.5) 

Canadian Lobster Bisque (3.5)

Roast Sea Bass (2.0)

Tiramisu (2.5)

I had a blast.  One of the greatest booze-related experiences ever.  Thanks, MtG!

Whatever the outcome of the The Guardians' Chapter voting--at present: CLASSIC/34%, REVIVAL/26%, EXOTIC/39%--I look forward to buying a few/several bottles, if only because I may have been partly responsible for it--exactly what they had in mind.  

Parting gifts: pocket rockets of the 18 and 15.

4.325 Helena's Nordstrom-Knockoff Caesar Salad with Canadian Bacon

-Cycle 4, Item 325-
26 (Tue) November 2013

-Italian-
Helena's Nordstrom-Knockoff Caesar Salad with Canadian Bacon

3.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Family

A salad created by an Italian in Mexico, popularized in America (see generally 2.068 Chicken Caesar Salad), with a ham product that's only called "Canadian bacon" in America (Canadians call it "back bacon").

The caesar dressing was made by Aunt Helena on a recent visit, who'd developed the recipe at her former deli in San Diego to mimic the one from department store Nordstrom.  Beaming with pride as she handed me a bottle, she was like, "You know how Nordstrom's caesar salad is so good...?"  I was like, "Umm, okay...?"  Regardless of pedigree, her dressing is excellent on its own terms, a fine balance of seasoning, spice, a hint of anchovy, luxuriously but not indulgently creamy, chunky with bits of garlic and cheese, maybe the best that I've ever tried--although frankly, most caesars seem to taste kind the same.  I'll have to get the recipe for myself.

4.324 Pan-Seared Scallops in Phak Boong Fai Daeng Sauce


-Cycle 4, Item 324-
25 (Mon) November 2013

-Thai-
Pan-Seared Scallops in Phak Boong Fai Daeng Sauce

2.5

by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Family

In the Le Creuset skillet that I bought a couple weeks ago (see 4.312 Chicken & Tomato Hayashi Rice...), with the sauce from Sala Thai that I got to go last week (see 4.320 Beef Phanaeng Curry).

While the skillet and the sauce were acquired separately, this is exactly the kind of dish that I had in mind for both.

4.323 Grilled Hanbang Eel


-Cycle 4, Item 323-
24 (Sun) November 2013

-Korean-
Grilled Hanbang Eel

2.5

at Jangsucheon

-Bundang, Gyeonggi-

with Wife, Dominic, Dad

Diminishing returns, every time that I come back (see most recently 3.165 Grilled Hanbang Eel), the prices go up--now 30,000 won per eel, previously 28,000 won--and the satisfaction goes down--started out as 4.0, now down to 2.5.

Maybe I'm just not an eel guy.

4.322 Double Tomato Bacon Deluxe


-Cycle 4, Item 322-
23 (Sat) November 2013

-American-
Double Tomato Bacon Deluxe

1.0

at McDonald's (E-Mart)

-Seongsu, Seoul-

with Wife and Dominic

Two years ago, I covered the Bacon Tomato Deluxe (see 2.281 Bacon Tomato Deluxe), a new burger from McDonald's Korea.  Since then, it's become a regular menu item but with 1 less bun (nothing in the middle) and 1 less bacon slice (originally 2).  

Now, with 1 additional piece of tomato (and unnecessary rearrangement of the words in the name), it's evolved into the Double Tomato Bacon Deluxe ("Bacon Double Tomato Deluxe" would've been just fine).  300 won more.  Whether this is the new default or a limited-time offer, who knows.  

Coincidentally, I just learned from my father that Burger King--which he was overjoyed to find in the basement of the hospital (see most recently 4.275 Mr. K...) during my mother's recent hospitalization (see most recently 4.321 Hospital Food)--will provide an extra piece of tomato (i.e., "extra vegetables") on any burger for 300 won.

In Korean, the copy on the left side of the promo translates loosely as "With 2 pieces of tomato, the freshness is double double!"--which is stupid, because "double double" would actually require 4 pieces of tomato.

Regardless of the tomatoes, the Double Tomato Bacon Deluxe was no good.  The main problem was the sauce, previously described as "sweet chili sauce," but seemed this time to be so sweet that it overwhelmed everything else, including the sorry-ass solitary bacon slice.

WTF, is the bacon folded in half and pushed to edge to make it look like 2 pieces?

Come to think of it, what the fuck kind of bacon burger comes with only a single slice of bacon?  As I mentioned before (see 4.307 Bean Royale), Korean-run burger joints, even the Korean branches of international fast food companies, lack the capacity to create a competent burger; they just don't understand the fundamentals (see for example 4.029 Special Burger).  

Also, what's with charging for the extra tomato?  In light of the ever-growing and well-justified criticisms against the fast food industry, offering a free piece of tomato would've been a wise move on their part, even if only for the PR. 

4.321 Hospital Food

-Cycle 4, Item 321-
22 (Fri) November 2013

-Korean-
Hospital Food

2.5

at Ajou University Hospital

in my mother's room (#1306) 

-Suwon, Gyeonggi-

with the folks

Watching Over Mom While She's Recuperating in the Hospital, Day 3 (see previously 4.320 Beef Phanaeng Curry).

In Korean hospitals, a caregiver, typically a family member, is allowed and expected to stay by the patient's bedside 24/7.  Rather than nurses/orderlies, the caregiver is tasked with helping the patient to/from the restroom, fetching water/snacks, etc., anything that isn't strictly medical.  Technically, 1 caregiver per patient.  In a 6-patient room, that means 12 people, at least.  Some patients have an entourage of caregivers, sometimes just to keep each other company.

Not my mother's room but the one next door, same layout; the cot at the foot of the bed is for the caregiver; faux wood paneling = luxury room = 380,000 per night.

My mother has decided to go it alone in her solo room for the duration of the hospitalization.  With either her husband or her son in the room, the only potential caregivers available, both notorious snorers, she wouldn't be able to get any sleep, she said.

On the first night, going to the bathroom by herself, she fell and banged her foot, the one just operated upon.  And then, somewhat embarrassed, she waited until the morning to tell anyone about it.  The x-ray revealed no additional damage, thankfully.

I've been hovering somewhat nearby, staying over at my parents' place in Bundang, which is a 20-minute drive to the hospital in Suwon, just in case.  She's scheduled for release tomorrow, so this should be the end of it, thankfully.

The meals, breakfast/lunch/dinner, came on a tray like this.

The hospital food was quite respectable.  Each meal consisted of steamed barley rice, some kind of soup, some kind of meat, some kind of jeon or fish, some kind of namul, some kind of kimchi, some kind of fruit, plus milk and water.  Very well-balanced.  Tasty enough, though my mother seemed less enthused with every serving.  In 7 meals, starting Wednesday dinner through dinner tonight, not a single repeat dish, except the rice and kimchi.  Fun to lift off the lids and see what lay underneath.  Reminded me of the meals that my wife got in the hospital after Ian was born (see 3.096 Postpartum Recovery Meal).

clockwise from top left: steamed rice, tofu jeon, jeyuk bokkeum, doenjang guk

clockwise from top left: apple, bottled water, milk, bokchoy namul, kimchi

Obviously, the meal here wasn't what I ate for dinner.  (Later with my father, we grabbed something at a neighborhood restaurant, totally not worth mentioning.)  Knock wood, I'm hoping that I won't be dining in a hospital bed myself anytime soon, so I took this opportunity to feature Korean hospital food as a vicarious experience.  I did sample each dish, to make it official.

4.320 Beef Phanaeng Curry


-Cycle 4, Item 320-
21 (Thu) November 2013

-Thai-
Beef Phanaeng Curry

2.0

at Sala Thai 

-Bundang, Gyeonggi-

with Wife and Dad

Watching Over Mom While She's Recuperating in the Hospital, Day 2 (see previously 4.319 (Mul) Naeng Myeon).

Earlier in the afternoon, the wife dropped by to visit her mother-in-law.  Dad arrived a bit later.  After we'd tended to my mother's needs, the three visitors went out for dinner.

Given the choice of venue, I decided on Sala Thai (see most recently 4.124 Poonim Phat Phong Kari).

Phanaeng is a type of Thai curry.  It's red and creamy.  Unlike kaeng phet, which is red and spicy.  The name "phanaeng/penang/paneng" possibly may be derived from the Malaysian state Penang, famed for its cuisine, including creamy curries.

Chang Beer, Thailand's lesser known and lesser good local brew.

Frankly, admittedly due to sheer inexperience, I still get the Thai/Cambodian curries mixed up, which all seem kinda the same except for the color (red/green/yellow).  Same with Indian/Sri Lankan curries.

The phanaeng at Sala Thai was good, I think--they all seem kinda the same and they all seem kinda good--except the beef was a bit too chewy. 

tom woon sen (2.0)
--okay but too spicy.

When I asked the server/manager/owner for takeout containers for the remaining sauces, both the phanaeng and the soy-garlic from the phak boong fai daeng, she looked at me with a frown and asked why.  My father, who has never ever ever in my presence made a joke along such lines, interjected with: "He's a chef, trying to steal your recipe"--that's the sort of thing that I'm wont to do, to get someone into harmless trouble.  She started stammering that the chef had acquired the phanaeng paste from Thailand, so it'd be impossible to replicate with local ingredients yada yada.  It took a couple minutes to convince her that I wasn't an industrial spy, just a resourceful home cook who wanted to use the sauces to make stir-fries for his family.

4.319 (Mul) Naeng Myeon


-Cycle 4, Item 319-
20 (Wed) November 2013

-Korean-
(Mul) Naeng Myeon

3.0

at Pyeonggaok (평가옥)

-Bundang, Gyeonggi-

with Dad

My mother's broken foot (see generally 4.313 Grilled Ribeye and Pork Belly) turned out to be more serious than first thought.  She went in for an examination this morning and ended up receiving emergency surgery by early afternoon.  No biggie, a pin inserted to secure the bone before the growing fracture could further extend into and irreparably damage the joint.  Still, she'll require hospitalization for the next few days, initially to prevent infection, and then to manage the pain. 

I should acknowledge the orthopedic surgery team at Ajou University Hospital--though nobody in the department will ever read this--from Dr. Park, who squeezed my mother into his fully booked schedule so she wouldn't have to wait any longer, to the nursing staff, who pushed through all the preliminary exams and forced an opening in the operating room at the last minute.  Thanks! 

Indeed, for the past 10 years, the best perk of my job on the faculty of a medical school has been getting preferential treatment from my colleagues in the hospital, even though I don't know most of them.  Then again, the vast majority of the current residents were my students at some point, which will hopefully start paying off in the next few years (assuming, of course, that none of them harbors any ill will towards me--I was generous with grades).

Once my mother was tucked safely into bed--she kicked us out of the room--my father and I went out for dinner.

nokdu jijim (bindae ddeok) (2.5)


The only restaurant that we could agree on was Pyeonggaok (see most recently 4.207 (Mul) Naeng Myeon), nearby my parents' place in Bundang.  He likes the nokdu jijim.  I like the MNM (see also 4.273 Mul Naeng Myeon).  Both good.

Afterwards, we went home and had a drink--Amarula, a South African liqueur (see generally 4.162 Lamb Chops), which my father had purchased on a recent trip to South Africa--not that we were celebrating.