Back from paradise

August 13, 2013

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The Mosel river near Trittenheim

In the picture above you will see the wine village of Leiwen (left). Further around the bend of the river (to the right) is the wine village of Trittenheim. This is basically the view of the Mosel you will get when you drive though the Hunsrueck mountains.

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Trittenheim, Mosel

And this was also our first view of the Mosel when we arrived in Germany for our summer vacation this year. We were mesmerized. What a splendid view, what a splendid landscape, what a splendid river, how good to be home.

From the outset let me tell you we had a great time (only about 3 weeks), and despite our at best erratic planning and our lousy preparation, we were able to line up some unique, memorable and exquisite encounters with the wine and food world.

I intend to write in more detail about most of these encounters. But let me not be too optimistic as regards the time available for blogging.

So what were the highlights of our visit?

Well, we had the best pork-knuckle ever (!) after a two hour march through the forests near the Ammersee on our way to the monastery of Andechs, a famous location for catholic pilgrims. Bavaria is a fantastic place to visit especially if the weather gods are smiling on you, and smile they did. We had warm, at times even hot, weather during the whole time of our holidays.

Along the Mosel we visited three wineries – two along the Ruwer, one on the Sauer, both tributaries of the Mosel – and had one wine tasting in Trier city at Oechsle. Wonderful, exquisite, I can only rave about the many fresh and zesty wines we had the opportunity to sample.

The wineries we visited were:

Fuerst Winery, Metzdorf, Sauer
Karthaeuserhof Estate, Eitelsbach, Ruwer
Maximin Gruenhaus C. von Schubert Winery-Estate, Mertesdorf, Ruwer

Another highlight was the visit of one of the best restaurants in the Alsace region of France. For a family lunch we went to the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in Lembach, Alsace near Wissembourg in the Vosges mountains.

Needless to say we spent many afternoon and evenings in wine bars and beer gardens, among them the wine bar Kesselstatt and the wine bar “Weinsinnig”, two of my favourite places to relax and enjoy a good glass of wine in Trier.

More soon. Stay tuned.

PS: I made some gorgeous pictures.

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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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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


Champagne at Easter – Carte Blanche from Bauget-Jouette

April 2, 2013

Bauget Jouette

Easter was looming and I had not had any real champagne for a long long time, therefore I decided to get a bottle of bubbly from France. I went to the Wine Connection shop in Thonglor and came out with a bottle of Carte Blanche – Bauget-Jouette from Épernay, Champagne in France.

This is a very fine specimen of bubbly wine from Champagne, France. I loved the small bubbles (12% alcohol), and the intensive yellow fruit aromas. Apricots and apples come to mind. The 60% Chardonnay grapes in the blend are tangible (30% are Pinot Meunier and 10% Pinot Noir).

Maison Bauget-Jouette is one of the oldest ‘champagne houses’ in France (1822). The family owned and operated business produces about 150,000 bottles per year on 15 ha of vineyards. This makes it one of the smaller and lesser known champagne producers. The good news is that its products are available here in Asia. Wine Connection in Bangkok sells it for about 2,000 Bath per bottle.

According to the German champagne platform www.champagner-portal.de (which carries about 61 champagne producers, big and small), Bauet-Jouette in Épernay is worth visiting. The winery has a historic cellar from the 17th century which is located 27 meter below the surface. Today the fifth generation of the Bauget family, Stephan and Nicolas, is operating the estate.

My verdict: I will buy this champagne again. Next opportunity is the graduation of my twin daughters from Patana International School in Bangkok in May. I will wait outside the school with a bottle of Carte Blanche in a wine cooler and the necessary accessories and we will celebrate their new won freedom.


Wine from France: 2011 Carignan Vieilles Vignes by De Chansac, France

December 5, 2012

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Beautiful colour of the Carignan Old Vines by De Chansac

The other day I bought some wine at wine connection in Bangkok. On special was some wine from France. Frankly speaking I do not buy much French wine these days.

Today, I opened one of the bottles, a ‘2011 Carignan Old Vines’ by De Chansac Winery in l’Herault, a French wine region.

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2011 Carignan Old Vines by De Chansac

The wine is made from 40 years old Carignan vines. The grape variety, originating from Aragon in Spain, is usually used in blends (in the wines from Rioja for instance) as a colouring component. It’s average yield is very high (11 t/acre).

Varietal wines are the exception rather than the rule. I assume that 40 year old vines have much lower yields and therefore it is worth making a varietal wine such as this one by De Chansac.

The wine has a dark red, almost purple colour. The alcohol content is 12.5% only. The dominant aroma is blackberry. The wine is full bodied, fruity, round, soft, almost velvety.

And did you see in the picture above? Even the French come around to screw caps these days. I was so surprised.

Of course we had the wine with some food. The pasta (below) was delicious and the wine went very well with the intensive aromas of the all amatriciana. I buy this wine again.

Matriciana

All Amatriciana


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.