Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009

Because my brain is too tired to write a proper essay, here's the standard meme:

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?
Hiked up a mountain in high heels. Totally idiotic. Long story.
Got a "setting perm" and hated it.
Took Japanese cooking classes at my friend Doma's.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions and will you make more for next year?
Some. Didn't get sick (haven't been to the emergency room all year) and tried to listen more than talk.
I have five projects lined up for next year, I resolve to complete them.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Boy, did they. 2009 was a baby boom year. Three daughters and one son from various friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, but so many celebrities died this year more than any other. Icons from childhood gone.
Korea was ridden with suicides; it was brutal.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
Energy. Lots of it.

7. What day from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory?
Obama's inauguration. (And the infamous Aretha hat.)
Roh Moo Hyun's suicide.
Receiving news of my passing WSET test.
IQ's and CY's wedding.
Kathleen Battle's recital in Seoul. (Will post about it later on.)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Passing WSET test.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting my drawing/painting hands back.
(Napzzak Project didn't help as much as I hoped it would.)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thankfully, just the regular ills and pains.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
New computer. (Hybrid made from separate parts bought at Yongsan.)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I honestly can't come up with anyone.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Netizens who leave horrible comments on issues of which they're completely ignorant.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and wine.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Passing the WSET test. (Broken record! Broken record!)

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Super Junior "Sorry Sorry"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? happier, thank goodness
thinner or fatter? same
richer or poorer? poorer (phooey)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Draw & paint.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying over matters that had no immediate effect on my life.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Lounging and lazing about.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? Nope.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Infinite Challenge. One Night Two Days.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I'm hating SM Entertainment for ruining my K-pop fandom

24. What was the best book you read?
Didn't read anything new worth mentioning.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery of 2009?
I continued wallowing in the wave of K-pop so no discovery.

26. What did you want and get? Repeat broken record answer.

27. What did you want and not get?
Tried out for something; didn't even make the first cut. Boo.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Being the Harry Potter geek that I am, I should be saying HP and the Half-Blood Prince, but I really really hated it. No favorite films this year.

29. What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
Aaack! Don't remind me! (Had fun, though.)

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I had managed to draw more.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Careless. That's why I'm an ex-fashionista.

32. What kept you sane? Faith.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The entire male cast from K-drama Queen Sundeok.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Motto : never talk about politics online. Gets you in craploads of trouble.

35. Who did you miss?
Best friend K who has been gone for seven years now.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
This year was more of a 'focus on old friends' year.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009:
I should learn to act my age sometimes(whether I like it or not).

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
And here I go again on my own , goin' down the only road I've ever known

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

I sound weird and unnatural and tired. Phooey. Doesn't mean that I'm not sincere, though. If you're not in the mood to listen to my voice, a still version of Cheonggyecheon at Christmas:

Christmas is a national holiday in Korea as is Buddha's birthday in the spring, but like most capitalist societies it has become a holiday of avid consumerism more than anything else.
The Christmas decorations were up in the department stores in November. The decorations at Hyundai Dept. Store (Apkujung) :

A Christmas themed art display at Avenue L. (I only took photos of the B1 floor.)

Christmas photo-op setting at Ssamzie-gil.

Christmas tree at Seoul Plaza. (Homepage is going through reconstruction until Dec. 28th, 2009.)
Students taking pics in front of Youngpung Bookstore's Christmas display:

Not many Bûche de Noël to be seen, but most bakeries and patisseries sell many versions of Christmas cakes. A patissier friend of mine mentioned that they look far more better than they taste and advised me to go for "regular" cakes rather than the holiday ones. Pity, because they are so pretty. These are from Caffe Themselves:

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season. May there always be good fortune in your lives.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Solstice & Patjuk

Juk is the chicken soup of Korea. When you get sick, you eat juk. The main ingredient is rice, which provides lots of carbohydrates (= just enough energy), it's a porridge and either lightly seasoned or not seasoned at all so it's very easy on the stomach, it's hot and warm.
It's not only food for the ailing, though. (I like chicken soup anytime, for example.) Many ingredients such as assorted vegetables, beef, pumpkin, abalone, shrimp are all used to make diverse variations. And on dongji, the winter solstice, we Koreans eat patjuk.

Patjuk is made from pat(red beans). As it is the day when the sun turns, in the ancient days dongji was observed with much reverence; some historians say it was even considered the true New Year's Day (seolnal). It is a day to get rid of your old debts, forget old grievances and try to start anew, a day to greet good fortune with wide open arms.

Because red is the color of the sun, eating juk made from red pat was believed to would ward off evil spirits in the following year. Traditional medicine doctors state that the nutritional reasons for eating patjuk in the winter is based on Korea's long agricultural history as well. Pat stimulates your inner organs and rids the body of toxic wastes, something that is difficult to do with lack of exercise in the "farm lazy" winter season.
Also, pat is considered a yin and the saealshim (glutinous rice balls which are added in the juk) a yang, and eating 'a yang within a yin' is supposed to be beneficial for your body in the winter months.

Patjuk comes either non-seasoned or sweet (which is called dan patjuk, in that case). I prefer the non-sweet kind, where I can taste the pat properly. The lack of salt is easily fixed by kimchi or dadaegi (mixture of various chilis, garlic, radish). Patjuk is traditionally paired with dongchimi, a cold radish kimchi soup. (Kimchi, like cheese, comes in a gazillion different varieties).

I have never made patjuk in my life; it's such a hassle to make. I usually get patjuk at my mother's or buy it. This year I got carryout at Bonjuk, the juk franchise that is all over Korea, and which was featured heavily with a fictional name in the K-drama 'Boys over Flowers'.
To be honest, patjuk is best at those traditional street markets but I live right next to a Bonjuk store and laziness won over. The juk was okay. A spoonful with saealshim and dadaegi.

The dongchimi they gave me was soooo bland. Notice how in the photo it's completely washed out? It's not supposed to look that way, so here's a photo of my mother's dongchimi, complete with flower carrots. Yum!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I need a nap

Gah, all the Tokyo posts are finally up now. All I have left is the megapile of accumulated posts-to-be about life here in Seoul. Which is several months worth. Ahahahahaha! (If you haven't guessed already, this is an almost demented laugh.)

I'm trying to get them out of the way before this year is over because honestly, who wants to be posting about 2009 when it's 2010?
By the way, isn't the number 2010 sort of scary? It's like one of those numbers mentioned when discussing the Future, with a capital F. Far far away and never to come in your lifetime kind of thing. I feel hella old.

Will powerpost soon, before I head off to my parents' place for the holidays. In the meantime, here are pics of sleepy/sleeping Cocoa. (I never manage to get pics when he's awake.)

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Tokyo)

I had debated long before my Tokyo trip whether to make a visit to L'Atelier or not, although Joel Robuchon is probably the most influential French chef of modern times (some might argue that it's Bocuse), you never know whether a restaurant is really that good or whether its reputation is built upon name value and hype.
Because you never know until you try out yourself and taste is subjective, I decided to give it a shot. It was a weekday so my hubae and I managed to dine there without a reservation.

There is a patisserie adjoined to the restaurant.

The interior is a blend of rouge et noir (red and black), which I thought was an appropriate color theme for a French restaurant. The soft lighting made my photos come out a bit blurry.

We sat at the bar facing an open kitchen. It was astounding how quiet that kitchen was. No shouting orders, no conversations regarding the dishes; if the staff indeed talked with one another it was all done in whispers.

The bar counter. We went at an early hour which accounts for the semi-emptiness.

Hubae and I had two separate menus, so we could taste a bit of each others'. I had a kir as an aperitif, which was a perfect color match for the table setting.

The freshly baked bread came in a red "coral" basket.

Pre-dinner mousse. Forgot what the ingredients were; it wasn't on the menu.

The server cuts off strips of jambon de jabugo (iberico ham). Haute French cuisine is definitely not for vegetarians.

L'oursin (sea urchin) topped with cream of cauliflower.
Chataigne (chestnuts) in caramelised foie gras mousse. This was way too sweet for my liking. I like my foie gras as is or grilled.

Shiitake mushroom terrine. This tasted uncannily like fusion Korean cuisine.

Homard(lobster) with salad greens.

Langoustine(prawn) in crispy papillote. Cooked perfectly. I normally don't like fried foods, but this wasn't greasy at all.

Coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops) on a bed of cucumber spaghetti.

Butter grilled scallops. The scallop comes out intact - I sliced the whole scallop before realizing I forgot to take a pic. We didn't have wine with the course (it would have been astronomically expensive to pair each dish) but I really wanted a good Chablis with this one.

Saint Pierre (white fish, have no idea what it's called in English nor in Korean, in fact). Great texture. Could have done with a little less sauce, for me.

Lamb filet with onion compote, rosemary, mushrooms and asparagus.

Lamb chop with mashed potatoes. A perfect medium rare. I usually like my beef extremely rare but lamb a bit more cooked.

Lime sherbet with raspberries and blackberries in gel.

Dessert! Marron (chestnut) meringue with bergamot, figs with white cheese and marinated grapefruit.

And strong bitter coffee, of course.

Photo of our reflections. Happy to be there.

The staff were super super friendly. They took their time to explain every single dish in detail. It was an interesting melange of Japanese, French, English and Korean conversation.

Hasegawa-san and Sato-san, domo arigato gozaimasida!!!

L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at Roppongi Hills