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

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Wang Ping Steak House in 桃園 Taoyuan, Taiwan

November 26, 2012

The shutters of Wang Ping Steak House when still closed

Together with my friend Jim I went to Wang Ping Steak House in 桃園 (Taoyuan) for a kind of farewell meal. The International Center Land Policy Studies and Training (ICLPST) had made a booking but we had to be there at 17.20 h already, because the place was fully booked.

Can you imagine that? Chinese gourmets seem to know what is good, and they eat early. So off we went and presented ourselves at the above time. It was a rainy day, with low hanging clouds, and it was dark when we arrived.

We had to wait a few minutes. Then we were shown to our table on the ground floor. The menu is in Chinese and in English. Straight forward so to say. We ordered in no time.

The appetizer arrangement

The salmon and mushroom arrangement was lovely and wetted our appetite. We were offered a glass of fizz, so to say, fizz with a sweet plum taste. We did not protest.

The fizzy plum drink

Both of us had ordered the mushroom soup. It came in two vessels, a soup bowl with the mushrooms lumped together like a little tower, the broth came separate. I was not quick enough to take a photo of both. The soup was good, fully flavoured, creamy and intense.

The mushroom soup

We ordered a bottle of house wine. Red was the colour we had chosen. I do not know much about French wines. When a bottle of ‘2010 Ginestet Bordeaux’ arrived, I was wondering what it would taste like.

As it turned out, Maison Ginestet is a wine trading house specializing in Bordeaux wines.

The wine was full bodied, had beautiful forest fruit aromas, and was dense with a long finish. Just the right wine with red meat, I thought. The typical Bordeaux blend is a good choice when eating beef or lamb.

Grand vin de Bordeaux

I liked the dark red colour

The sorbet

To cleanse the palate, a sorbet was offered. Again it had a plum taste. The fine acidity made sure our palates were ready for the main course.

Dried plums and plum sauce for the lamb

Jim’s main course: lamb

Beef fillet

Jim went for the lamb chops, I ordered the beef fillet. Big dishes but we were ready for it.

Chocolate dessert with ice cream

Crème brûlée in a shell

Also the desserts did not disappoint us. What a lovely way to end our farewell meal.

The service at Wang’s is very efficient. The well trained waiters and waitresses are polite and attentive. We both enjoyed the evening.

I was about to board a plane a few hours later. Jim stayed behind for another two weeks at the Centre. As always we are confident to meet again for another joint teaching engagement at ICLPST.

Chinese flower tea

Come and eat at Wang’s

PS: I highly recommend a meal at Wang’s. They have several outlets, I think.

Address:
Wang Ping Steak – Taoyuan Jhongshan Branch
No. 546, ZhongShan Road, Taoyuan
Taiwan –
Tel.:+886 – 03 – 339 1650


Buddha Enlightenment day – what a lovely lunch

June 7, 2012

It was the first day with the family after an extended absence from Bangkok, and we all enjoyed a hearty meal together. The wine I had brought with me from Brussels. We were looking forward to it. As you know, I am not very knowledgable as regards French wines. But first, let us see about the food.

The main dish

We had some pork loin on a bed of rocket sald and potatoes topped with some bacon. This was super delicious. As side dish we had some assorted vegatables consisting of zucchini, carrots and cualiflower.

The vegetables

On the plate

As mentioned above, the wine came from a supermarket next to my hotel in central Brussels. I choose the most expensive bottle on the shelf, and voila it was a ‘2007 Union des Producteurs de Saint-Émilion Grande Sommellerie’, a blend of the five traditional Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec).

I had no idea who the “Union De Producteurs De Saint-Emilion” was. However, the wine was dark and full, a bit like jam, full of red fruit flavours. It has a good body and a reasobale long finish. In short, it was no disappointment.

The colour of wine

Conclusion: I do not sample sufficient French wines, and should drink more of it.


“Second-Christmas-Day” Party

December 27, 2009

The 26 December is called the “2nd Christmas day” in my native Germany. Since my father’s birthday fell on the 25 and was not celebrated because of Christmas, the 2nd Christmas day was usually the day his friends came to visit and congratulate him for his birthday.

Well, in this quasi tradition, we invited friends and acquaintances to our humble home for a Christmas barbecue, merging German and Australian customs of our family. I was very busy grilling pork and chicken, therefore no photos of the results of my labour at my “Weber grill”. Moreover, I grilled some veggies for the vegetarians among us (I was commended for the quality and the good taste). Margit had made various potato and bean salads; we had greens and white bread.

There are also no photos of the wines we consumed. Just two of the desserts. But a heck of a party it was. The 9 adults and the 9 children had a good time, as the two photos below show.

The “long” table

From 4 to 58 years old, 18 people around the table

The desserts:

Le Notre, the best dessert maker in town

The home made Pawlowa, Australian delight

Matthias and Beatrice had provided most of the wine (and the Le Notre dessert). We drank some beautiful drops. Here are the highlights:

‘2005 Rocky Passes Syrah’ (our last bottle) was perfect for the event: a Christmas party Australian style. It’s a beautiful example of cool climate Shiraz from our Upper Goulburn Wine Region. Vitto Oles makes great wines. James Halliday gave the 2005 Syrah 94 points.

‘2007 Altenkirch dry Riesling’, Lorch, Rheingau/Germany. Friedrich Altenkirch is a very well known vintner. Some of his wines were just rewarded silver and bronze medals at the International Wine Challenge and the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards. The 2007 Riesling is young and fizzy, a solid German wine. The wine-maker, Tomoko Kuriyama, comes from Japan not a common trait of German wineries.

‘2005 Château La Raze Beauvallet, Cru Bourgeois’ from Medoc, Bordeaux, France. The château (45 ha) is owned by the Sourice family and has retained the original ‘cru Bourgeois’ classification from the 1930s because of the wine quality. The wine style is fruity and soft, easy to drink.

Needless to say, we had some bubbly as well, mostly from Taltarni, Australia. We will do this again.


Bordeaux wines: Château La Gravière and pasta for dinner

December 13, 2009

The amatriciana pasta

There are just too many châteaux out there. I confess that I do not know much about the wines from Bordeaux. This wine region produces between 700 and 900 million bottles of wine every year. It is divided into 57 appellations. About 10,000 producers call themselves ‘châteaux’, the number of grape growers is about 13,000.

Fortunately, Haut-Médoc, just north of the city of Bordeaux, at the left of the river Gironde covering about 4,600 ha of vines, is smaller but still carries lots of different châteaux. The area used to be marshland until Dutch merchants began to drain it in the 17th century. From grazing land to vineyards (reminds me of my own story and Two Hills Vineyard in Glenburn which is largely grazing land, but in the hills, no marshes to be seen), what a great success story.

2006 Château La Gravière

Our friend Emmie had given us this bottle (above), a ‘2006 Château La Gravière’ from Haut-Médoc, after her return from Europe. The Château La Gravière is actually situated on the right bank of the river, in Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC. It’s a small producer with only 2.3 ha under vines whose flagship wines are Château La Gravière, a typical blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) and Moulin de Gravière, its second wine.

The label is owned by the Rougefort Group. Total production from the Lalande-de-Pomerol AOC is about 500 cases per year. The Haut-Médoc wines (left bank of the river) are an addition to the portfolio. The character of the wines is quite different from the Lalande-de- Pomerol wines which is partly due to the blending formula, partly due to the different terroir.

The colour of the wine

The wine was very pleasant, full of vanilla and berry flavours. We just loved it. It could cope well with the strong flavours of the amatriciana pasta and the bacon in it. My prejudices against Bordeaux wines (which are partly the results of my ignorance) were utterly refuted.


Country living: The good life in Ramsdorf, Westphalia

May 31, 2009

The land

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The Münsterland, Westphalia is not exactly a wine region. People in this rather flat but beautiful rural part of Germany, just an hours drive from the Industrial heartland of the Ruhr (the drive can be as short as 30 minutes only), prefer to drink beer and “Korn”, a spirit also called “Schnaps” distilled from wheat and other grains.

The farm houses are made of red bricks, have large wooden doors, usually green, high gables and are just magnificent. They stand alone within the land belonging to them, accompanied by large stables and barns, all erected in the same style, a wonderful sight. I went there to visit my friends Uli and Elfriede in a small hamlet called Ramsdorf.

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My friends Uli and Elfriede’s house, formerly a cottage of the estate (from the back)

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The backside with the outdoor furniture

The Food

As the people so the food, one could say. Rural people everywhere developed healthy, nutritional type of foods; no-nonsense stuff, usually based on the raw materials the land has to offer. So the Münsterlaender cuisine has a lot of sausages, ham and various kinds of meats, served with potatoes, and green vegetables.

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The table in the patio

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Beautiful beef

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Fresh asparagus in a special asparagus cooker

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The finished product: asparagus

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The finished product: the steaks

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Our meal of asparagus, potatoes, ham and a steak with melted butter

The wines

We did of course also drink wine with this delicious meal. We started while the asparagus was still cooking with a ‘2008 Knipser Sauvignon Blanc dry’ by Weingut Knipser, Pfalz, a wonderful wine, fresh, fruity with structure and depth.

The brothers Volker and Werner Knipser (and since 2005 Stephan, Werner’s son) are the owners of this vineyard and winery in Laumersheim, Pfalz. The family operates the estate since 1876. Today about 40 ha are under vines. The brothers were the first in this part of the Pfalz to use small barriques barrels to mature their wines. They also increased the area under red varieties and replanted with high quality rootlings. In 2009 the were awarded “Vintner of 2009” by Gault Millau for their innovative ways and their high quality wines. My first Knipser wine, I drank many years ago when living in Beijing. My friend Norbert Finkel, a journalist from the Pfalz, introduced me to the Knipser wines long before they became fashionable.

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‘2008 Knipser Sauvignon Blan dry’ in the bottle

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..and in the glass

After the white, we longed for some red and went out into the shed where Uli stores his wines. Here we unearthed an old wooden box with red wines from Bordeaux, France.

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Treasure trove

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The chosen one

We selected a ‘1994 Château de Sales’, a Bordeaux blend from Pomerol, France. Uli de-cantered the wine, the drop was excellent but needed to be drunk. So we had “discovered” it at the right time. The blend was full flavoured, with structure and harmonious tannins and very enjoyable with our food. The wine sells on the internet in the UK for £ 30-35 and in continental Europe for about the same amount but in €.

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The top of the capsule

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The cork

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Uli de-cantering the Bordeaux

We finished the evening with an Italian wine, a ‘2006 Vietti Nebbiolo Parabacco’ from Langhe, Piedmont in Italy. That was quite a change from the Bordeaux. The wine was rich and complex. It showed well balanced tannins which were chewy at the finish, just great for a red. What a pleasurable wine to end a very pleasurable day with my friends in the Münsterland.

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The Nebbiolo bottle from Vietti

The people

I quickly introduce my friends, the three Hillejan families. Georg and Barbara are the farmers, aunt Doris, the mother of Georg and Ulrich, and Ulrich and Elfriede, my old friends from University days. I used to work on the farm as an intern during my students days when Uli’s father Alfons was running the estate. I loved to work for uncle Alfons. He was a great man. But I did not only work but also play there. We celebrated quite a few events (a few weddings among others) on that farm, had wild parties and a great time playing farmers.

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Georg, aunt Doris, Ulrich, Barbara and Elfriede on the veranda of the old farm house

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Three men on a mission, Ulrich, me and Georg


Connoisseurs delight: a wine tasting in Berlin of a special kind

January 15, 2009

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While in Berlin an old friend of mine, Gerhard Schlaudraff, had invited me spontaneously to join and celebrate his birthday in his new home near Warschauer Platz. Since Gerhard is not only a wine lover but a real wine expert, the feast promised to be something special. And indeed, it turned out to be a wine tasting of a special kind.

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I was about an hour late and many wines had been already swallowed up by gay drinkers. I came just in time for the two reds, the ‘1995 Corton Grand Cru Domaine Bonneau du Martray and the ‘1996 Grand Vin Château Beychevelle Saint-Julien’.

We all agreed that the two wines should have been drunk some time ago, they had, unfortunately, already passed their prime. That’s why we moved on swiftly without loosing too much time.

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The ‘2003 Kuenstler Reichestal Spaetburgunder’ from the Rheingau was a ripper of a wine. It can hold itself against the best Pinot Noirs from Burgundy. The wine was well balanced despite the “horror” announcement of 15% alcohol on the label. So forget about France and Burgundy and explore this wonderful drop from the Rheingau. More and more Germany is showing itself as a Pinot Noir producer of high distinction. My tip: get a bottle of this wine now and enjoy it, preferably over a good meal, with family and friends.

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After that we moved on to sweet wines for dessert. We started with a ‘1999 Deidesheimer Grainhübel Riesling Auslese’ from Weingut Dr. Deinhard, Pfalz. This wine was “heaven on a stick”, a dessert Riesling which you want to try. Our eyes rolled in their sockets with delight and our taste buds were exposed to an opulence and richness from which mere human palates are often excluded.

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The last wine came from my adopted home, Victoria, Australia. It was a Muscat from Rutherglen, a wine region about three hours north from our own place in Glenburn.

The ‘Chambers Rosewood Vineyards Grand Muscat’ was the highlight of the evening. Chambers produces outstanding Muscat wines of superior quality. The average age of its Grand cuveés is about 70 years.

The Chicago Wine Company gives the wine 98 out of a 100 and has given up to describe the wine, because tasting notes would read the same year after year.

For me this wine was the perfect ending to an utterly enjoyable wine and birthday celebration. From here on only spirits with a much higher alcohol content could be taken. I left the diners to it when I made my way home on the subway.