Fine dining in China: Capital M in Beijing

June 20, 2013

Capital M Beijing

Captital M

Many of you know that Capital M is one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing, China. I try to dine there at least once every visit. On my last visit, I went with my friend Brian Wallace, the owner-director of Red Gate Gallery. We had ordered a table for dinner on a mild spring evening. We both needed a treat, and a treat it turned out to be.

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The wine list

I love the wine selection of Capital M, and decided on a wine from Sancerre. The ‘2008 Domaine Fouassier’ by Domaine Fouassier was a lovely Sauvignan Blanc. This was my first time that I tasted wine from this producer, and I should not regret it.

The Fouassier family is one of the oldest wine producing families in Sancerre. Today the estate covers about 56 ha, 80% planted to Sauvignon Blanc, 20% to Pint Noir.

This wine is aged in oak barrels where it remained on lees for about ten months. It displays the fine acidity, the aromas and complexity one expects from a wine from Sancerre. I loved the sound structure and the long finish.

The grapes come from old vines. The winery prides itself with its organic agricultural and bio-dynamic methods. It was a good choice and I have to look out for more wines from this producer.

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2008 Domaine Fouassier, Sancerre

I urgently needed some green stuff and started with a salad with some beetroots pieces. The wine was perfect for this food pairing.

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Beetroot salad

I am not someone who likes the fancy recipes. I like solid-rural, more agrarian and artisan food not the highly refined output from modern kitchens.  So my choice was red meat which did not exactly match my choice in wine. Since Brian did not feel like another bottle, I stayed with the Sancerre. But I am sure some of the reds from the wine list of Capital M would have been a lovely match.

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My beef fillet on potato mash

The beef was just awesome, what a great dish, what a great evening. If you want to spoil yourself, get going, book a table and enjoy a meal at Capital M. It’s worth it, trust me.

When we left and had said our good-byes, I went on a stroll on Tiananmen square which was completely deserted and void of people. I was rewarded with this view of the entrance of the forbidden city. A visit to Beijing can be quite delightful.

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It’s Riesling time

June 17, 2013

Selbach

2011 Selbach Riesling Classic

Recently, the supply with German Riesling wines in Bangkok has improved considerably. A fine specimen is the ‘2011 Selbach Riesling Classic’ by the Selbach Winery in Zeltingen, Mosel.

Selbach 1

The family enterprise has vineyards in Zeltingen, Wehlen, Graach and Bernkastel and is currently working 20 ha of vines, many of them in very steep locations along the Mosel river. 98% of the area is under Riesling, the rest is planted to Pinot Blanc. As is customary with many German wine producers, the Selbach Riesling assortment includes dry, semi-dry and sweet wines, plus late harvest and ice wine.

Selbach 2

In Bangkok only the classic dry Riesling variety from the Selbach winery is available (88 Parker Points). In order to get your hands on terroir specific and single vineyard wines you might have to identify a specific importer. Although ever since the new It’s Riesling initiative has started operating, one has a much better chance as a consumer to find more exotic Riesling wines of the highest quality.

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The Selbach Riesling Classic shows all the qualities of a good German Riesling. It is not bone dry, has a good acidity and citrus notes. Riesling is a perfect compliment with Asian cuisine, especially Thai and Chinese food. I paired it with the shrimps (in the picture above) and some spicy chicken (as in the picture below) and it worked very well.

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Chicken on my Weber grill


An “artists lunch” in 798 Art Zone 艺术区 in Beijing, China

June 14, 2013

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Utrans Wines Culture Center in Beijing

I wanted to visit the 798 artists village since a very very long time but in the past had never found the time to do so. Last spring when I visited Beijing again I especially took time out for a visit tot he many art galleries in 798 Art Zone.

I was particularly interested in the On/Off exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art 尤伦斯当代艺术中心(UCCA. The Center had commissioned 50 artists and artists groups born after 1975 to express their ideas about freedom. All of them were born after the so called Cultural Revolution. All of them have grown up in a China of radical change characterized by market reforms and increased individual freedom. On/Off comes from the graphical interface of a common VPN which allows access to the internet and the outside world or not, depending on the speed of the censors and the energy of the user to find the loop.

I just loved the exhibition and the Ullens Center and was glad that I had come. Visiting galleries makes tired and hungry but luckily I found refuge in the above Utrans Wines Culture Center just across the street from the Ullens Gallery.

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Utrans: Bar and tables

Some of the Christmas decoration was still hanging but the cherry tree outside was in full bloom. Spring was in the air and every body was in a boisterous mood.

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At the back of the place were shelves full with various bottles of wine from various wine regions including Germany. The colours of the decoration suggested that a recent event might have showcased Italian wines. Utrans is a Xiamen based wine importer.

The dilemma of entering such a Mecca of fermented grape juice alone is that a bottle is quasi out of the question, and one has the choice among the house wines only. I settled on a French red.

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The bottles revealed the following:

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2010 AMBAR from Bordeaux

2010 AMBAR Grand Vin de Bordeaux, 13% which was bottled by an winery in Gironde. It was a decent house wine, more pedestrian in character but drinkable with red fruit aromas  and a decent finish.When I later googled the wine I could not find any useful information.

After a while I decided that wine without food would be like sex without orgasm and I had a look at the food menu. I settled for a salad and a salmon pasta. And here as an old China hand I should have been less trusting and/or more knowledgeable. The salad was a positive surprise: the mushrooms were warm which gave the whole affair a special character. The portion was huge.

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Warm mushrooms on a bed of green salad.

The pasta turned out to be Chinese noodles. The stuff was edible though, but not what the title suggested. What is al dente (?) in the case of Chinese noodles anyway; that’s a no go. The dish doesn’t look to bad in the picture I should have definitely ordered some Chinese food but not pasta. I have only myself to blame. After more than 30 years coming to China I should have known better.

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My Chinese noodle dish with salmon

Would I go there again, you might ask? The answer is: absolutely.

The waitress was very friendly, the service good and the atmosphere just right.

I will come again and explore some more of the 798 Art Zone and its culinary delights.

Beijing is awesome. Have fun and explore the 798 Art Zone. It’s worth it.

Address: 798 Art Zone
Ceramic 3 St. 798 Road, 798 Art District,
4. Jiuxianqiao Road/Chaoyang District
Beijing P.O. Box 8503

朝阳区酒仙桥路4号
P.R. China


Two Hills Vineyard aerial picture

June 12, 2013

Our vineyard

Source: Google maps when searching for Two Hills Vineyard

My children provided me with the above picture. Unfortunately I do not know where they got it from. Sorry for that.

The road on the right, is Two Hills road and the gum trees lining it. On the left side from the road one can see our two dams, the two vineyards (between the dams and right from the dam on the right). Also the shed can be identified. The white “lines” around the different blocks are from my slashing with the tractor. Also my windbreak can be seen (left line leading to the creek).

Looking at this shot, makes me terribly homesick.

Our next visit will be the highlight of the year for us.