Restaurants in Hanoi: Madame Hien

March 31, 2012

In a beautiful French colonial building you will find Madame Hien, a restaurant offering traditional Vietnamese food in Hanoi.

We had a business lunch there (May 2011). Therefore, I could not take many photos of the surroundings and the food. Please forgive me. I promised myself that I would come back to the place when I’m in Hanoi next time.

The gate to Madame Hien

Madame Hien is owned by the celebrated French chef Didier Corlou. He comes from Brittany and owns another restaurant in Hanoi called La Verticale.

The lunch menu

As you can see from the menu above, a three course meal costs about 200,000 Dong only. The dishes one can select offer a wide variety of Vietnamese delicacies.

My main course

I took something light and enticing. As starter I selected the grapefruit salad with prawns, followed by the grilled fish “Cha ca” Madame Hien style. I finished with the cheese “Le Corlou” to honour the chef. All of the dishes were delicious, excellent.

Trip advisor gives 4 of 5 stars to the restaurant. There you will find as of today 210 reviews, 90 of which rank the place as “excellent” and 72 as “very good”.

Unfortunately, the most recent reviewers seem not to have had a good time at the restaurant. No idea what happened. Sure is, that I will come back, next time with a bit more time on my hands, and so that I can have a glass of wine with the food. See you there, maybe.

Madame Hien
15 Chan Cam, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Between Ly Quoc Su and Phu Doan, just south of Hang Gai
Tel.: +84439381588,

Korean (fast) food

March 30, 2012

My day job kept me from blogging during the last two weeks, and I somehow lost touch. Sorry folks, I hope you bear with me. I am confident that I will find traction again as I have in earlier times of absence.

I just returned from a business trip to Korea (back to back with a visit to India). I love Korean food. The nature of my trip did not allow me to indulge in massive and exhausting meals. It was rather a kind of fast and quick break to get some basic food stuff.

Alas, Korea, today an industrial economy with a peasant past, has plenty to offer in the culinary department which can rival other “fast-food” cuisines.

One is Bibimbap (비빔밥), the other is “tuna kimbap” (김밥), I love both.
Below you can find it (or some of it). It was very yummy.

Bibimbap without egg

A Korean salad

The notorious 김치 Kimchi

A tuna kimbap (김밥) with a noodle soup

La Pala – Pizza Romana – walk in eatery in Bangkok

March 19, 2012

Welcome to my city: Krung thep, the city of angels

Bangkok is a fascinating Asian mega-city. Millions of people visit it every year. Bangkok is where different people from different cultures meet, relax, shop, trade, interact and enjoy each others diversity.

This is also reflected in the great variety of different eateries from East and West. None of the major world cuisines is not represented. And Bangkokians love food, their own and foreign food. Therefore it is no surprise that Bangkok has a vibrant restaurant culture catering to the needs of the poor and the prosperous alike.

The entrance to La Pala, right below the Asoke BTS station

Recently, I discovered a new Italian eatery, La Pala, right below the Asoke BTS train station. La Pala offers Pizza Romana style food. The quality of the food ingredients is the key, as are the service and the hospitality in general.

La Pala is not a romantic place. The crossing with the BTS station, the underground, the overpass and the shopping malls around it, is one of the busiest corners in Bangkok, bustling with people and traffic. La Pala is “practical” without frills, it is down to earth and at the same time a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

The counter with cheese and ham

The pizza oven and work benches

The food is simple but delicious as you can see from the three pictures below. Of course there is also pizza by the half-meter and the meter, or in small pieces. But you can also order a pasta or a risotto.

A tuna salad

More salad

Focaccia in many different variations

Italian food would not be complete without wine. This is one feature I like best in La Pala. You just order by the glass or a bottle, and there is some good choice of delicious Italian wines.

We sampled a bottle of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a region West of Ancona in Le Marche. It was immediately put into a bucket with ice to keep it cool.

Claudio Volpetti, the owner, is from Rome. He imports high quality Italian food items for five star hotels in Thailand. He has also a small selection of wines you can order with a order form called Wine “Meranda”.

On this list you can find an Amarone delle Valpolicella by Villa Girardi, a Moscato d’Asti Nivole by Michele Chiarlo, Crede Prosecco Brut by Bisol, a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi by Garofoli and Liano, a Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon blend by Umberto Cesari.

The address of La Pala

So if you find yourself hungry and stressed out from over-shopping in Bangkok, go to Asoke BTS station and find refuge in La Pala, enjoy the warm hospitality, the excellent food and fine wines. Needless to say you will bump into many Italians there, clear evidence for the outstanding quality. Check it out. Enjoy a bit of home far away from home.

Sticks Pinot Noir and Cowboy food

March 18, 2012

Beautifully coloured Pinot Noir

The last thing I did at Melbourne Airport when we left for Thailand in early January this year, was to buy a bottle of ‘2010 Pinot Noir’ by Sticks Winery.

I knew the bottle would not last long. On a Saturday when we felt like rural folks, we had it with a hearty meal of cowboy food.

Sticks Winery and its vineyards are located just opposite the old homestead of the Sadlier family at the foot of the hill South-west of Yarra Glen, called Christmas Hill. My friend Steve Sadlier had set up most of the vineyards many years ago when the place was still known as Yarra Ridge Winery.

If I remember correctly, my first ever wine tasting in Australia was in the tasting room of this winery. The wines were presented by Meagan, who became Steve’s wife a couple of years later. Sticks was the first vineyard I walked through in Australia. Goodness me that’s now so many years ago, maybe 1991 or 1992.

The 2010 Pinot Noir by Sticks

I was not sure if the wine would go that well with rural tucker. After all Pinot Noir makes a delicate and refined wine, something subtle and gently textured. And Sticks Pinot Noir is exactly that with delicious fruit aromas from wild cherry with a bit of spice, long on the palate with a suppleness hard to imagine. Maybe ill suited to the food we were going to have, I thought.

However that may be, we were in for a dish by Jamie Oliver, one of my favourite chefs of modern cuisine. From his “America” book, we cooked the Mountain Meatballs (page 308).

Mountain Meatballs as interpreted by Margit Adam

These meatballs are spicy. Jamie Oliver made up the recipe, he says in the book. The true Rocky Mountain dish is made of “prairie oysters”, sheep or cattle balls. We followed Jamie more than the wild West tradition.

The melted cheese in the meatball is just wonderful creamy. I also love the slight coffee aromas. This dish is a ripper of bush tucker, as we would call it in Australia. We served it with rice. I could eat it for breakfast, I must say, with bread or potatoes.

Jamie suggests a wine from the Côtes du Rhône, most likely a Grenache, a Shiraz and/or a Mourvèdre. Next time we’ll have these meatballs, I will try that.

Fine dining in Bangkok: Patara Restaurant revisited

March 15, 2012

My favourite Thai restaurant in Bangkok is Patara in Thonglor which offers exceptional fine Thai cuisine of greatest quality.

I have written about the place a few times, but it is always a very special occasion when the four of us, I mean my family, are heading to Patara for a family experience.

In 2009 Patara was awarded the title: the Best Restaurant in Thailand. We have taken some of our closest friends there to share this experience.

The interior of Patara restaurant

The other day, a Sunday, it was time again to patronize the place, and indulge in fine Thai cuisine. And look what we ordered. The starter platter is just a wonderful assortment of various delicious Thai dishes.

The starter platter

Another starter

Pork wrapped in bamboo leaves

Also the main dishes are fabulous. I love the steamed fish with herbs, but also the omelet Thai style, the greens and the steamed rice in four colours.

The steamed fish

Omelet Thai style

Morning glory greens

Steamed rice in four colours

I was pleasantly surprised to find a few Thai wines on the wine list. New latitude wines from Thailand are some of my favourite wines since I live here in Bangkok.

I choose the ‘2010 Colombard’ from Monsoon Valley Wines in Hua Hin. The winery has a German wine-maker, Kathrin Puff, who graduated from Geisenheim. I met her at the 3rd International Symposium of Tropical Wine in Chiangmai in November last year.

2010 Colombard from Monsoon Valley Wine

I usually do not like the grape variety. But here in Thailand Colombard makes incredible delicious single varietal wines. It is Monsoon Valley premium range brand.

The 2010 vintage won silver and bronze awards. It has a crisp acidity with complex aromas, and a nice finish. Needless to say the wine goes very well with Asian food. I was glad that I had selected it, and was reminded that I need to stock up on the wine myself.

The back label of the Colombard from Monsoon Valley


And another sweet

Of course we had a coffee after the delicious meal and the desserts. Another highlight is that Patara offers to take you home in their Tuktuk, an open air three-wheeler, which is great fun for old and young.

Check it out. It is definitively worth it.

Patara Bangkok
375 Soi Thonglor 19 Sukhumvit 55,
Klongtonnua Vadhana, Bangkok 10110
Tel.: +66-0-2185 2960-1
Fax.: +66-0-2185 2962

Best Syrah in 2011 – 2008 Cornas by Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Northern Rhone

March 12, 2012

Human memory is anything but perfect. In fact it is one of the most fallible of human organs there is. In hindsight we clear out memories we do not like any more. We add and subtract from it, we construct stories which never happened in the first place; we make sense where there was none before. Our memory seems to possess an independent creativity that bears only a passing resemblance to actual events.

That’s why wine geeks keep tasting notes, isn’t it? But even if we do, aren’t we deceiving ourselves, mixing up things, are influenced by the circumstances, the sympathy we have for the people we tasted the wine with, the location and the situation when we finally write it down as in a blog entry?

We humans like a narrative. We love to connect the dots even if there is little connectivity, no correlation not to speak of causation in the first place.

Please join me while reminiscing about the past year. What was the best Syrah I drank in 2011?

Well, this is not an easy task. 365 days of wine-drinking gone bye, need to be scrutinised. Pages of tasting notes need to be mastered. I’ll make it short for you

Please allow me to take you to my “winner”. It’s a wine by Thierry Allemand from Cornas village, a small wine region in the Northern Rhone, northwest of Valence, the charming small French town at the Rhone river.

I guess you have heard about the vintener and wine-maker Thierry Allemand.

The best piece on the internet about Thierry Allemand, I found on Thierry Allemand is one of my favourite French wine-makers.

Here you can indulge yourself, see the man, learn about his vision, his vineyards and his wines.

The first Cornas by Thierry Allemand which was served to me was by my good friend Timo Mayer at his home in the Yarra Valley. It was the 1996 Syrah Reynard cuvee from Cornas. The wine tasted like burned rubber which is sometimes labelled as a fault. But I liked this funky wine. It was wonderful complex and full in the mouth, with thr right spicyness. One feels like in paradise while the wine slowly winds it way down the throat.

Timo Mayer presented me with the 2008 vintage of this wine (last Christmas while at his house). It is difficult to describe this awasome drop. In comparison with the 1996 vintage, I would call this wine “domesticated”.

It is not wild as the 1996 vintage. It caters to the more mainstream taste, of what Syrah should taste like. I was not disappointed, not at all. However, I prefer the funkyness of the older vintage.

How can I get access to this wine in Bangkok? Does anybody have an idea?

Resfreshing bubbly produced by Di Giorgio Family Wines

March 9, 2012

Di Giorgio sparkling

One of the many refreshing bubblies we tasted during our Christmas holidays in Glenburn, was this bottle of Di Giorgio sparkling, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. I had bought it in our local supermarket in Yea.

The bottle of sprakling on our kitchen table

Di Giorgio Family Wines is a family business celebrating in March its 10 anniversary. Some of the vineyards are located in Lucindale district of the limestone coast near Coonawarra, South Australia.

Stefano Di Giorgio migrated from Italy to Australia in 1952; with his wife Rita, he has four children. Apart from viticulture, the family holds interest in cattle, sheep, wool production and horticulture.

In 1989 the first vineyards were planted in Lucindale. Today, about 126 ha are under vines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shirz, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are produced.

The holdings in Coonawarra covers almost 228 ha under vines. Apart from the varieties above, they also include some Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo.

From 1998 onwards the Di Giorgio’s decided to move from fruit growing to wine-making, and in 2002 they established their own winery. The enterprise is not small. I wish to congratulate them to their anniversary and wish them well for the future.

The sparkling Pinot Noir (85%) Chardonnay (15%) is a very fresh and refreshing wine. I loved the strawberry aromas and the spicyness. It is not completely dry but carries some hints of sweetness. The soft creaminess is lovely and gives it a very “homely” character.

Yarra Valley: TarraWarra Estate and Museum of Art

March 8, 2012

One of the places we always wanted to visit is TarraWarra Estate and Museum of Art, which is one of the attractions in the Yarra Valley. Year after we year, we postponed our visit. We simply ran out of time.

Not so this year, that was at least our resolution for the Christmas holidays 2011-2012. My daughters were very keen that we kept our promise this time, and in the end, we did.

Unfortunately, I have no really good photo of the place. But rest assured, it is a very lovely place indeed. The Tarrawarra Estate and Museum of Art is a must see in the Yarra Valley.

We were lucky that the works of William Delafied Cook, a landscape painter from England, and his paintings of the Australian countryside, were on display. This was a faboulous exhibition and the three of us had a great time.

When we wanted to buy the catalogue, it was out of print but the lovely ladies behind the counter offered to send it to Bangkok. We were stunned. But just two weeks later, the catalogue arrived savely. What a great service.

The view from TarraWarra

The vineyards near the winery

My daughters Lucy and Charlotte

We had no time for a proper wine-tasting because we had to rush for a lunch appointment with our friend Steve Sadlier. Therefore, I just rushed in the cellar door and bought a bottle of ‘2009 TarraWarra Estate Pinot Noir’.

2009, the year of the great Victorian bush fires was a challenging year for win-makers in the region. Lot’s of grapes showed smoke taint, and were not useful for wine production. TarraWarra was no exception. That’s why this Pinot is a blend from different sources in Victoria.

But it turned out to be a good choice. The cherry and dark fruit aromas were very pleasant and so where the fine tannins. I regretted that we did not buy a second bottle which we could have enjoyed at home.

Charlotte with the Pinot Noir bottle

TarraWarra Estate
311 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road,
Yarra Glen 3777
Tel.: +61-3-5957-3510
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11 am to 5 pm

My beloved Mosel river – 1868 map of its terroir

March 6, 2012

I am very excited. Finally, my historical map of the Mosel river, which I had bought some years ago at Karlsmuehle, a winery cum restaurant at the Ruwer river, was put in a proper frame here in Bangkok. It’s a replica and not an original of course. But I looks very nice on my wall.

Vineyard location and quality map of 1868

The map shows the quality of the terroir in different shades of red. The more intense the red is, the better the quality and the higher the tax category. The Royal Prussian government had produced this map in order to streamline their tax collection.

The newly framed map of the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer

I can already see this map hanging in my house in Australia on our vineyard in Glenburn. I will tell my grand-children where I come from and how much I love my native town, Trier, and the Mosel river.

GranMonte harvest festival 2012

March 4, 2012

GranMonte Vineyards in Khao Yai, Thailand

About two weeks ago, my family was invited by Khun Visooth, the owner of GranMonte Family Estate, to attend this years harvest festival at GranMonte vineyard in Khao Yai, Asoke Valley, Thailand.

The four of us had rented a car and drove up country for a day of fun, food, entertainment and excellent wines.

Rows of vines at GranMonte

The Adam family: Margit, Charlotte, Lucy and me

We were some of the first guests, and used the time to walk around the vineyards and inspect the cellar door. It was a big event, about 120 plus people were expected.

Chenin Blanc grapes

Chenin Blanc ready to be harvested

Syrah grapes

Beautiful bunches of Syrah

I did not take any pictures during the evening meal. We were just to busy enjoying ourselves. And my little camera is not good at night either. The following pictures were taken while we waited for the start of the harvest festival.

The terrace of the restaurant where dinner would be served later

The restaurant

The GranMonte cellar door

The award winning wines of GranMonte

The entrance to the winery

This is where the event started, the entrance to the winery. We had nibblies and various wines, including freshly fermented grape juice, which we call in German “Federweisser”.

Stainless steel tanks

What would wine be without oak.

Selected wines on oak barrel

Khun Visooth and his family thanking the guests

The party was just wonderful. We enjoyed the food and the free flow of wine. The band played nice music even with some songs from my youth.

One highlight of the evening was the release of the ‘2010 Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah’, the award winning flagship wine of GranMonte. It was poured from 1 1/2 litre bottles. Delicious stuff.

Unfortunately, we had to leave the very same evening at about 10 in order to get back to Bangkok. I had to leave for the airport the next day at 5 h in the morning. The other guests slept in a nearby hotel and could enjoy a second day of play, wine and food.

We made the best of our time. I loved the music and the band as well as the volunteers singing and dancing. We left fully satisfied with a couple of boxes of GranMonte wine in the car.
Thanks Khun Visooth for inviting us.

If you holiday in Thailand you should set a day aside and organise a day trip to Khao Yai. The mountains are beautiful, the trip is pleasant and in the Asoke Valley a few wineries with restaurants are waiting for you; one of them GranMonte.

GranMonte Vineyard & Wines
52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong,
Nakornrachasima, Thailand 30320
Tel : +66-81-923-200-7 , +66-84-904-194-4
+66-81-900-828-2 , +66-80-661-755-5