Too many good food weeks are starting to catch with me. Sure, I have a bit of a weight issue but it is starting to become a lower back issue. All this sitting at a computer is starting to cause me lower back problems. My doctor also told me that I slouch like a crane and I lean my head forward like a turtle. He said this is what is causing my back muscles to be all tight. He says it is not really from stress. I mean do I really have that much stress in my life? Not really. I live a pretty charmed life.
So here are my current goals:
1) I am going to stand up straight.
2) I am going to sit up straight in my chair with my butt to the back of my chair.
3) I am not going to slouch (it makes me taller :)
4) I am going to cut down on my drinking. (This week, I have only drank once)
5) I am going to join a group exercise class like yoga or boxing (I belong to a gym, but it is boring).
6) I am going to document what I eat more so I will be better aware of it and I can make conscious efforts to make better food choices. (They say mind over body right?)
The train to Mokdong is crowded on a Thursday evening, and I shift uncomfortably, brushing against anonymous handbags and shoulders, happy it’s only a short ride from the point where I had transferred to line 5 (I don’t know what it is about the purple line, but it’s always been my least favorite). Today I’m headed to Bandi & Luni’s, a bookstore in the Mokdong U-plex, in order to purchase NU’EST’s newest album, Action, for a chance to get in to a fansign event.
Its ironic, I think, that my last fansign in Seoul will be with the first group I ever went to one for. Assuming I get in. Attendance is determined by lottery, you see, so out of the albums sold Wednesday through Friday, 150 fans will be chosen. Of course, when I went to my first NU’EST fansign, getting in was a simple matter of being one of the first 150 fans to buy the album from the host record store on the specified day because it was first come first serve. I’m actually a bit proud of them for meriting a lottery style fansign. The goal of all parties involved is obviously to make money, and with rookie groups that are just starting out, the first come first serve tactic it is a sure way of selling at least 150 albums, because people know for sure when they are buying the album that they’re going to get in to the signing, and it’s a good way of peaking people’s interest. With the lottery tactic, assuming the group has a substantial enough fanbase, they have the potential of selling more than10,000 albums for a 150 person fansign (I’ve seen it happen with popular idol group Super Junior), as each album counts as a chance to enter your name into the lottery. I have witnessed hopeful fans buy 60 albums at time for a chance to meet their favorite singers. I personally, will be buying one album as NU’EST is nowhere near that point in yet. By having a lottery-style fansign though, it means that both NU’EST’s management company and the hosting record store are banking on substantially more than 150 albums being sold, thus a telltale sign of their increase in popularity.
Though there is a slightly smaller chance of me getting in to a fansign when it’s via lottery, it’s more convenient, because I don’t have to rush to the store the first morning of sales in order to be among the first 150 people. I can go on my own time (as long as it is during the designated dates.)
I buy an album for myself, and another for a friend who has only recently gotten interested in the group. In return the store clerk hands me two tickets indicated where I must write name, phone number, and birthdate. I fill out one for myself, and the other for my friend, and the clerk gives me the corresponding tickets in return. The list of names chosen to attend the fansign will be posted Friday night at 10pm, she explains, and if our names are there we need to bring the corresponding tickets to the store the day of the fansign and redeem our spots. I’m not too worried about getting in, but I do miss the certainty of the first come first serve style. I try to put it out of my mind for the next several days.
As it turns out, there was no need to be nervous. When I check the list Friday night, both my friend’s name and mine are on the list. We arrive an hour or so before the event begins and get our numbers in line (35 and 36). We have a bit of time before we need to line up so I buy some stationary from a nearby store.
I don’t usually write letters to idols, but I’ve been supporting NU’EST since their debut and I’ve attended enough events that they know who I am, or at least recognize me in the crowd as one of their few regular white fans. It might sound weird, but I realize that I really do feel like I have a real relationship with the members. The distance between fans and idols in Korea is far less marked than for the fans who can only access K-pop through the internet or TV, and as someone who has now experienced both perspectives I can see how much of a difference it makes. I’m leaving Seoul soon and I’ll have to go back to a faceless fan who views events and music shows helplessly from the internet, and I won’t pretend it’s going to be easy to go back to being an international fan, but I’m immensely glad I got to experience fandom within Korea. So I write Aron, the oldest member and a native of Los Angeles a fan letter. I feel a little like a 12 year old girl, because I’m 21 and probably should be over writing letters to idols, but at the same time like a protective older sister who’s leaving her baby brothers behind. I tell them to stay take care of each other and work hard but not to sacrifice themselves for it. I tell them I’m going to miss watching them perform ,and that I’m proud of how much they’ve accomplished since their debut. And I mean it. I’m glad Aron speaks English because I don’t think I could’ve expressed myself well if I’d had to write entirely in Korean.
When the time comes to line up and I see the five members of NU’EST sit down at the low tables that have been prepared with beverages, thick black markers, and a bevy of security guards, my hands start to shake. No matter how many times I go to a fansign, no matter how many times an idols walks by me in a parking lot, no matter how many times one waves at me when I’m calling his name or shakes my hand as he shuffles off stage after a performance, I don’t think I’ll ever be immune to the dazzling aura of Korean celebrities. Dressed in their tight fitting performance outfits, with a fresh coat of make up to intensify their already gorgeous features, these boys are almost inhumanly good looking. And at the same time, so hyper real, their laughter and widening eyes so entirely boyish and natural. It does a number on you, to see such normalcy on people that look like they just stepped off a magazine page, photoshop and all. And to think we have a fairly familiar rapport still blows my mind slightly.
I kneel on the floor across the cloth covered table from the leader of the group, JR, still a little tongue-tied at his existence, but I manage not to embarrass myself too greatly. When I get to Aron, I tell him I’m headed home soon and that I probably won’t get to see him again. He looks genuinely saddened to hear it and I’m hit with a little burst of affection for the 19 year old, he tells me good luck on my last year in college and I give him my message to pass on to the other members. It’s a bit sad to say goodbye like this, but I count myself lucky that I get to say anything to them at all in person. When Minhyun, the last member in line has finally finished signing my album – there was a bit of a hold up when his pen ran out of ink halfway through writing– I give them all a little wave and move a way from the crowd to wait for my friend.
She comes away just as breathless and excited as I was after the first time I’d met them in person, smitten by their easy smiles and adolescent charms, and it makes me happy to know I’ve helped NU’EST gain another fan. The K-pop high that usually swamps me at fansigns is tempered with a sober finality that makes the moment a bit bittersweet. But as I flip through the pages of my album I have to smile seeing that the members signed my album “To Nuna.” Even though I’m leaving Korea I’ll always have this album as a reminder of my time in Seoul and my time as a crazy fangirl. I’ll be able to gaze fondly upon the scrawled upon faces of these boys months, years from now, and feel this day echoed and reverberating from the pages.
I've been searching for the best poutine in all of Korea. I remember my days in Canada going to a Harvey's restaurant and having them blow my mind with such a simple but 'me gusta' induced coma. Even Burger King in Canada had an awesome poutine! Hey, the gravy may not have been 'real gravy' and the cheese curds made the sound of wiping a window clean when you chew, but they were so vainglorious with their gracious portions of gravy and cheese, it was the perfect post party midnight munchie snack.
So when my girlfriend told me she found a 'Poutine Factory' by my gym (it's okay, I have one cheat day a week), I was a little worried she might have been mispronouncing a completely different word, but lo and behold there is was! Although they have a variety of poutines, we tried the classic one as the foundation to measure the other ones. They come in two sizes, regular (6,000won) and large (10,000won).
Regular being a pretty adequate size, we went with that. The gravy was pretty good, compared to other poutines i've had, (sometimes runny and a bit discolored, almost like fries inside a broth) and they use proper cheese curds (although they were more gracious with the amount of fries than the cheese.) One problem I had with the poutine is the fries, cheese and gravy ratio. That is THE true measure of a properly balanced poutine. (yes even junk food has to be properly balanced)
That being said, the Poutine Factory need to lessen the portion of the fries, spread that mother gravy all around the dish in concentric circles rather than just in the middle where it drains into a little creek. And live a little! Throw in some more cheese curds! When you are at the end of a monster poutine, and there is more fries left than gravy, you need to start making some serious changes. I would say at this point, New York fries is still reigning champion in Korea so far in the poutine department (unless Taco Bell made some amazing dorito poutine---!!).
That being said, I hope that PF really step their game up and experiment with the true harmony of the three essential pieces of the perfect poutine.
I can't find it right now, but it is on the street near Craftworks down from Noksapyeong Station exit 2.
I noticed that Poutine Factory has opened in Gyeonidan down the street from Craftworks. It looks pretty cool and on a Monday night it looked pretty full. The menu looked pretty good and they had the fried with curds and gravy. If I wasn't on a diet, I would have stopped in. Anyone been yet? Leave a comment to let others know!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I would like to thank everyone that helped support and help promote our kickstarter project. We ended up raising 1700 USD for this project and we are now ramping up production to get it ready for distribution. I am so happy to know that there is a market for a book like this and that many people are interested in it. I promise to post updates as we get to it.
I was in Gyeongju on Saturday with my new friends Crystal and Rafaella. My friends are K-pop fans and they came all the way from Cyprus to see some of their favorite k-pop groups (Big Bang, Shinee, and G-Dragon). In Gyeongju they were holding the Hallyu Dream concert so our company helped arrange tickets for them and a tour during the day. We spent the day going to sites and ate at famous restaurants and snack stands like Hwangnam Bang (famous red bean bread, there are many imitators but the real one has a huge queue). It was Rafaella's birthday so we celebrated at a local cafe with a cake.
Gyeongju is a historical city and it has some good sights. It is definitely worth a day trip there.
Happy Chuseok everyone! Chuseok, the harvest holiday in Korea, is extended this year September 29, 30 and October 1. I hope you are planning to do something nice for yourself and your family. I have put some pictures of good gifts you might want to give or hint you would like to receive. If you would like to learn a bit more about chuseok, here are some past articles I have written:
My First Chuseok with my Mother
Chuseok is Korea's Harvest Thanksgiving
My goal this year was to travel more. I feel alive when I am on the move and I feel more motivated. I spent the day in Busan with a tour group eating and showing the sights of the city and I feel elated. Busan is a city full of energy and the food is top notch. When I looked down at the quality of the banchan before me, I realized that Seoul really needs to step up the quality. The kimchi here is crisp and full of flavor, the chilies feel like they have soaked up the sun and the fish is fresh and full of flavor. It's been a long day but a happy day of eating and sharing what I know about Korea with others.
In one of the markets I visited, I had some fried snacks that where amazing. The oil had turned the batter around the stuffed chilies, shrimp and octopus into crystals that disintegrated at first bite. They even had some modern fried snacks such as
American Tweggumwhich was mashed potatoes with onion that was battered and fried. LOL.
I highly recommend you take a trip down to Busan while the weather is still amazing.
Shabu Shabu is a good meal to have with friends and on cold days. I had a meeting over at the 63 building and decided to have lunch there with a friend. At the 63 building there are numerous Japanese places and cafes but no Korean places. Anyway, Shabu 63 seemed to be a good choice.
The place is modern looking. A bit upscale and they have those black ceramic induction burners for the soup. We ordered the lunch special (16500 a person). It came with an array of side dishes, veggies, meat and later noodles and mandu.
Meh. I mean the food was fine, but nothing gourmet. The broth was flavorless (a ladle wasn't given to try it). The side dishes were ok as well. The meat was of decent quality. the service was a bit horrendous. We didn't have proper tongs and scissors to start cooking the food. Refills on side dishes took a while. We had to refill our own water (however, this is not a self-service place). What they need to do is to put one of those damn buttons on the tables so servers know where and what to do.
What I am trying to say is that it isn't the best Shabu Shabu place in Seoul. But for a place that is in an upscale atmosphere this is an ok place.
Now can someone recommend for me a really good Shabu Shabu place?
Now, here is a sample of the first comic that has been colored by our talented Heejeong.
This is the real Korean beef restaurant and it hasn't really changed much in over 20 years. It is in a classic looking hanok and there is only one meat on the menu: Hanwoo (Korean Beef). You cool it on a cast iron pan with some cow fat to grease the pan.
How's the meat?
Perfect. You get some different cuts of beef. Some are richly marbled like snowflakes and other are more fleshy. You cook I on the pan briefly since you wouldnt want to burn your 38,500 per order meat.
Afterwards, I recommend their fried rice. They take liquid from their turnip kimchi and cook it down and mix it with rice. It makes a risotto like dish with Korean accents.
Seungdong-gu Hongik-dong 431 (Wangshipri flagship); +82 2 2292 9772; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; www.대도식당.kr
This is one of the best fine dining restaurants I have been to in Korea because it is a perfect combination of all elements: location, atmosphere, cuisine and service. Located in Gahoedong this area is off the busy road in a quaint house that looks like an Asian chateau. Inside the tables are arranged in an orderly fashion and covered in white table cloth. You can see the chefs working diligently behind the glass covered open kitchen. The kitchen is orderly and clean which gives you confidence about the food. Service is polite and the menu is simple and seasonal. My meal started with a salad with a oxtail terrine that added a surprising note without taking over the salad. Then I had a frothy eggplant soup followed by crispy sea bream with a grapefruit butter sauce. The fish was crisp outside and hot in the center so I could tell the chefs had timed this correctly. For dessert was a small piece of cake with some ice cream topped with a wedge of fresh fig.
The chef, Roland Hinni, is a legend in the restaurant industry in Korea and he now has a place to call his own.
This is a fine place to take a loved one.
Wow. I don't know what to say this doll is...well...it farts if you tickle its tummy and you can feed it milk and cereal. You can even get a toilet that shows you the poo. Yeah...wow...I know what I'm getting for everyone this Christmas.
Korean people are not shy about talking about number 2. I remember that when I used to be a teacher, my student's favorite book was about the life of dog poo that turns into a beautiful flower. After dating a girl for a year and I had politely not farted for 1 year, when I finally did she was it was a relief to her because she thought I was shy and stuck up around her.
Hey we all do it. Below is a video of a baby's first poo. It's cute and a bit graphic. Yeah, it's like a little poo baby that turns into a beautiful flower.
I think I have found my new man cave. I just have to start liking cigars.
Burn Cigar Bar in Gyeonidan has a wide range of cigars, scotches, and dark rums in a distinguished room that overlooks the madness of the street below. You can easily sit up here and have a drop of something strong and brown while puffing away on a fine Cuban cigar. Sure it might sound like something your father or grandfather might have done but there are reasons for it. They had seen and experienced the world and was brainy enough to not run with the madness of the bar crowds. With a fine scotch and a cigar they could sit back and reflect. I am just romanticizing of course.
I do enjoy a cigar every once in a while but I felt I never appreciated it. The owner Hal said to me, "It's just to enjoy. If you like it then that is all there is to it."
The bar is like a speakeasy and it keeps away those looking for a typical foreigner bar. It seems exclusive, but it is not. The owner and staff are friendly and welcoming, but be courteous of others. They have a great liquor and wine selection which is reasonably priced. Oh, and a great range of cigars.
Lounge and Cigar Bar
2nd Floor Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-2 dong 643
View Seoul Eats Favorites Map in a larger map
It has been another fabulous food week and what I need these is a physical trainer. There have been too many food adventures with my food company and as a food writer. It has been one of best weeks yet that our company has had. On Saturday we had 3 food tours (Jeonju food tour, Andong food tour, and a night dining tour) and a wine event. My stomach sure has had a workout and it is effecting my wardrobe. Today my goal is to head to the gym and burn a bunch of this food off.
Anyway, the best eats I have had so far has definitely have to have been Seoul Bulgogi and Lee Kyu Bok Tuna in Hongdae. Seoul Bulgogi is a feast of enormousity cooked on a copper grill pan over real wood charcoal. Lee Kyu Bok Tuna gets you a feast of tuna with copious amounts of alcohol. If you give a tip to the chefs they might give you a shot of alcohol made with tuna eyeball.
I was also lucky to try Chef Seba's lemon rosemary Porchetta (which can be found at High Street Market). This was amazing and goes great with wine. Kip Richardson of High Street Market brought this to the LTB (Les Toques Blanches)meeting at Suji's where I got to enjoy a great turkey club sandwich.
Finally, just to make my Korean mom happy, I had some simple but wholesome Korean meals as well such as kimchi fried rice. It has been a good food week.