October 31, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 9: Faire le pont

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My last full day in France, and it happens to be the Monday that's right before a holiday - All Saints Day.  Finding things that are open these last few days have been particularly difficult, since many French people have the habit of "faire le pont"... literally to make a bridge, but in essence taking a long weekend.  We had that problem on our trip to Burgundy last year.

Got up this morning and was determined to go grab some breakfast at Blé Sucré.  It's within walking distance from my hotel, and I was dying for some kouign amann.  I had one on my trip last year and have been thinking of it ever since...

October 30, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 8: Enfin, Paris!

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Another early start to the day, as I get ready to leave Switzerland and go back to France.  B very kindly made us a huge breakfast, and I joked that the spread is about half the size of the 5-star luxury hotels that I had been staying at during the past week...

After getting dropped off at Nyon, I took the local train into Gare Cornavin in Geneva, and boarded the TGV to Paris.  I was wondering why it would take 3 hours for us to make the journey, then it all became clear as we snaked along the river gorge during part of the journey... Can't exactly travel at 200 km/h given this kind of terrain!

The train pulled into Gare de Lyon, and I quickly checked into Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon - rising above one corner of the train station.  I dropped my luggage quickly and ducked into the Métro below.  I was already late for my lunch appointment with the Specialist and her friends.

October 29, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 7: 3-star detour

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I'm on the road again... After less than 24 hours in Lyon, I got up early this morning and headed for Gare Lyon Part-Dieu to catch the train to Geneva.  I'm headed for one of my favorite restaurants in the world - Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville in Crissier.  I was here around the same time 3 years ago, and met my friend B for the first time.

Once I arrived at Gare Cornavin in Geneva, I took a local train to Nyon.  B picked me up in her black SLK... new since my last visit.  My giant Rimowa barely fit in the trunk...  We dropped off my luggage at her house, and Mr. B drove us all to Crissier.

It was a beautiful day around Lake Geneva - blue skies instead of gray 3 years ago.  We met up with another couple who had come in from the German-speaking part of Switzerland.  Lunch for 5 would be a lot of fun.

October 28, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 6: Bicycling in Lyon

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The roadtrip was over and we went our separate ways this morning. A few of us took the car back to Lyon, and after a quick drop-off at Saint Exupéry Airport, the car took me to the Hilton Lyon where I would be staying the night.

Checking in was a breeze at the hotel, and soon I was able to drop my luggage in my rather spacious room. Too bad my room didn’t come with a view of either the beautiful riverside or the adjoining Parc de la Tête d’Or, but that’s what happens when you book through one of those hotel booking websites…

It’s lunchtime and I’m hungry again. I venture out of the hotel and decide to rent a bicycle from a station just outside the hotel, one of hundreds citywide. Instead of getting frustrated like I did in Paris 2 years ago, this time I found the process incredibly easy. Soon I was on the bike going down the biking/jogging path right next to the Rhône River, heading into town looking for lunch.

October 27, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 5: The best of Chateauneuf

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Got an early start this morning since we had 3 appointments before lunch.  First stop was at Clos Saouma, the new property from Mounir Saouma and Rotem Brakin of Burgundy's Lucien Le Moine.  Details of the visit are here.

Our next stop is with an MNSC old friend, at Château de Beaucastel.  Details of the visit are here.

Our final stop before lunch is at the legendary Domaine Henri Bonneau to meet the man himself.  Details of the visit are here.

October 26, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 4: Pope and Avignon

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We left Maison Pic early this morning and said goodbye to northern Rhône, heading down south to focus on Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Our first visit was at Domaine Roger Sabon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape this morning.  Details of the visit are here.

Next we headed to Tavel and visited Domaine de la Mordorée.  Details of the visit are here.

Fabrice very kindly treated us to lunch at the restaurant in La Mirande, the hotel in Avignon where we were staying.

October 25, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 3: two giants in northern Rhone

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Our morning visit having been cancelled, our day was a relatively easy one, and I got some much-needed sleep.

The first item on our agenda today was a visit to M. Chapoutier in Tain l'Hermitage.  Details of the visit can be found here.

Michel Chapoutier hosted us for lunch inside the main office.

Salade d'andouillette grillée et de pommel de terre – made from pigs raised by Chapoutier, Michel prefers to cut open the casing and just pan-fry the pieces. As an andouillette lover, I was totally in heaven. So happy that I didn’t have to look for it on this trip…

October 24, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 2: Two vignerons in the north

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After a rather sleepless night, the focus this morning was firmly on breakfast.  Breakfast at Troisgros is a serious affair, and I was certainly not going to miss it!

The basket of pastries included the brioche aux pralines, which was as fragrant from the hazelnuts as it was sweet from the sugar.  The savory selections included three different sausages: a boudin noir with beef tongue, another boudin with pig’s ears, and a saucisson.  Doesn’t take much to make me a happy man in the morning…

We bid farewell to Maison Troisgros, and headed south into Rhône valley to begin our tour of the domaines.

October 23, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 1: Back at Troisgros

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So here we are... at the start of another MNSC road trip.  The region we have chosen this year is Rhône, and for the second year in a row we are starting the trip with a full day spent with the Troisgros.

Two of us arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport early in the morning, and after grabbing a simple cup of coffee with a pain au chocolat, boarded the TGV and headed to Lyon.  After getting picked up at Lyon Part Dieu station, we picked up the rest of the crew at Saint Exupéry Airport and the connecting TGV station.  Within one hour, the Viano was full and we headed north for lunch.

October 22, 2011

Gold coins on the run

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I’m flying out tonight for my annual wine tasting trip, but still had time for one more dinner in Hong Kong.  I met up with Tigger and family for a quick one, and I took them to Manor Seafood Restaurant (富瑤海鮮酒家) so I could get my fix.

I started with a bowl of snake soup (蛇羹), which was pretty disappointing.  There was simply not enough ingredients (like snake meat, for example) in the bowl, and the chef had decided to starch up the soup.  Not the mark of a good snake soup… perhaps something I’d expect from places like Sher Wong Fen (蛇王芬) but not when I’m being charged the prices I’m paying here…

Dim sum with Big Tony

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Big Tony flew into Hong Kong on the day that I was to leave for France, and I felt lucky to have had some overlap with him as both of us were having short stays here - 3 days for me, 1 for him.

The two of us met during our high school days in Singapore.  Even though we were in the same school for only a semester, we became fast friends and I got to know his family well.  After I went off to college, we didn't see each other for a number of years due to the distance between us.  The last time we met was when I went to visit him in San Antonio, just before leaving New York for Hong Kong.  That was many, many moons ago.

He was hungry and wanted to eat, so I took him out for dim sum at Victoria City Seafood Restaurant (海都酒家).  I figured there'd be enough variety and new things that they ain't got down in San Antonio...

First up was a serving of honey glazed barbecued pork (蜜汁叉燒).  I was dying for some good char siu, and these were pretty decent.  But then again, being in Taipei these last few months have definitely lowered my standards...

October 21, 2011

French Chinese food

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A couple of weeks ago, Dyson 2000 was on her eating spree and had the same dish at Caprice twice in one week (...or was it two days in a row?) The dish looked real good, and I decided that I wanted it, too. A table was promptly reserved and I asked a few friends to join me.

For one reason or another, ALL of my friends decided to drop off at the last minute... by dinner time last night. My Birdbrain Cousin shamelessly invited herself to keep me company, and later in the evening Mr. and Mrs. Tigger decided they, too, would join us. All of a sudden it became a family dinner of sorts.

October 20, 2011

Golden truffles

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Back in Hong Kong on business for a couple of days, and quickly filled up my evenings with dinner plans to satisfy some of my recent cravings.  Given some of my recent disastrous experiences in Taipei, it's not hard to guess what I'm looking for here...

The evening actually started with a wine tasting.  My friend was celebrating the second anniversary of her retail wine shop in Central, and I stopped by after my conference to show her some support.  On my way to the tasting, I was chastised by the Specialist over chat for not informing her that I was in town.  She was at the wine tasting and learned of my presence from my friend...

October 18, 2011

Another horrible excuse of a restaurant

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OK, I wasn't gonna blog about tonight's dinner.  It was pretty bad, but at first I didn't feel the need to stomp and crush on a restaurant that obviously isn't doing good business.  But... the more I thought about it, the more I felt the restaurant doesn't deserve to survive.  If this is the kind of food you serve, you deserve to go out of business.  Harsh?  Sure.  But that's the reality, isn't it?

I was meeting a couple of people for dinner, and my friend suggested to give Portofino a try.  Apparently the place had been open for a few years just around the corner from the current location, and it used to be decent.  Well, definitely wasn't the case tonight, and since we were one of only two tables this evening... I'm thinking that others feel the same way.

October 7, 2011

French, Cali or Scotch toast?

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I've got more visitors in town from Hong Kong, and I was struggling to find a place that served good Taiwanese food and had decent wine glasses.  Turns out they don't exist, and the common solution was for people to bring their own glasses.  Upon the recommendation from ScubaGolfer - who suggested a few other solutions to my problem but attached a disclaimer regarding the their tastiness - I booked a table at Mao Yuan (茂園餐廳), an old establishment just a couple of blocks from my office.

I arrived first with two bags full of stuff, and promptly got started on the wine (self)service.  After taking the glasses out of the box, I proceeded to uncork two bottles of white.  Although I was sure that others had done the same before me, I still got a few curious looks from the staff as well as other diners.

October 6, 2011

Apple, Steve Jobs and me

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A star has fallen.  Steve Jobs is no longer with us.  He has shone so brightly over the years, and illuminated the lives of many - including me.  This post is my own little tribute to Steve - a great innovator and salesman who set out to change the world, and succeeded.

The first contact I had with Apple was back around 1981 or 1982... My cousin bought himself an Apple II - which I think was an Apple II Plus - and we were playing games on it.  It was, I think, the first computer I ever laid hands on.  I essentially saw it as a gaming console and not as something one can do productive work on.  But hey, what the hell did I know?  I was still in grade school and puberty hadn't hit.

October 1, 2011

Un nouveau palais

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I'm hanging out in the old part of Taipei today, which is a rare occurrence.  After a couple of hours spent checking out a number of camera shops, I suddenly realized that my favorite ice cream joint was just a couple of blocks away.  Yes, I realize that it is after Mid-Autumn Festival and the weather was no longer scorching hot, but one can always eat ice cream...

I sat down at Snow King (雪王冰淇淋) and browsed through the menu.  A few flavors have been taken off, notably in the fruit section.  The owner decided that there was very little point in producing flavors that everyone else was doing - such as strawberry.  Quite frankly their prices are not cheap, so people wouldn't come here and pay a premium for what they can get elsewhere, anyway... They have enough unique flavors and I'm sure they can continue to do brisk business.


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