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Memories of Israel – Jaffa

12 May

If you haven’t been to Israel before, I hope these posts of “Memories of Israel” spark your interest.  I have intentionally kept them wording-light and photo-rich, so please email me if you would like more details…

One of the best ways to spend a touristy afternoon in Tel Aviv, is to walk along the beach promenade to the old city of Jaffa.  (Pronounced Yafo in Hebrew.)

It is estimated that Jaffa was built and inhabited 4,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest port cities in the word.

Today, Jaffa is a unique mix of architecture (historical, crumbling, Mediterranean), culture (chic & fringe), and people (Muslims, Christians and Jews).

My favorite sites in Jaffa include, but are not limited to: the Al-Bahr Mosque (above)…

The Wishing Bridge (above), where all you have to do is touch your zodiac sign, look at the sea, make a wish and ABRACADABRA!

This beautiful floating tree, secretly tucked away between the winding alleyways…

The daring street art, galleries, and artist studios…

Oh and the FOOD (What did you expect?! Of course I’d talk about food)…

Two fantastic restaurants in Jaffa are the Container (which is also an art space and music bar) and Pua (pictured below, located in the middle of Jaffa’s famous flea market).

But E’s favorite place, and therefore, MY favorite place, is an off-the-beaten-path, hole in the wall, serving THE BEST Hummus I’ve had yet- Hummus Asli (Yefet St, Jaffa)

If you ever go to a hummus restauant in Israel, you should know that the only acceptable way to eat hummus is by wiping it straight off the plate with a piece of pita, as demonstrated by E.

And the rest of the 10 salads, hummus, tahina, and fish…

You can eat them any damn way you want.

But don’t skip dessert – you’ve got a long walk back to Tel Aviv.

And on a completely seperate note – I’m guessing that one of the only people who has read this post top to bottom is my beloved mumsy, so I’ll take this opportunity to tell you personally…on the internet…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAAMA!

(And Happy Mother’s Day in Korea)

Lavu Lavu Lavu Lavu

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A Boy Becomes a Man – G Loses His Thirginity

12 Mar

This weekend we celebrated G’s 30th…

Which was quite a special occasion because the kid man intensely dislikes making a big deal of his birthday.   (Well, he wasn’t exactly thrilled about celebrating this year either, but I started wearing him down in January so that he would give up the fight come March.)

***

Pre-birthday – a foundation for the celebration:

In order not to overwhelm the fragile birthday boy, I started things off nice & casual the night before he turned 30, by making his favorite San Francisco meal-

meatball subs a la Marina Submarine, with a final course of G’s dearly beloved…

 CUNDAY!!!

***

El Birthday Itself – 30 is for romancing

I turned the love-meter up a notch for the actual eve of G’s birthday, enchanting him with some appetizers and wine at Fifty Cafe (located near Dosan park)…

followed by a perfect (perfect perfect) dinner at The Kitchen.

We dined slowly and thoroughly on traditional Italian soup, tomato and eggplant bruschetta, sautéed clams with cherry tomatoes, THE BEST calabreze pizza I have ever had in my life, and linguine alla pescatore.

 I wouldn’t have changed a thing except for the fact that they wouldn’t allow flash photography (hence the fuzzy pics).

We had such a good time at The Kitchen that we stayed until it closed- and then it was off to the bars!  (Where I got as fuzzy as my pictures.)

***

30 + a day – Let’s dance old man!

My plan had worked- two days of calm and delicious celebrations had lead G to start enjoying his birthday- and finally we were ready to really PARTY!

The night started with a little bit of this (thanks to Maama H)…

Followed by a lot of that…

Interspersed with a Zoolander this…

And ending with our amazing Seoulsome friends at the bars- thank you all for coming out!

I think the birthday Grinch is finally cured!

Hong Kong- Love At First Bite

8 Mar

I’m going to journey back to Hong Kong for one last post about food,

(Oh, Hong Kong, you lovely island of culinary delights!)

and what better way to kick things off than with Hong Kong’s most celebrated food- Dim Sum!

Dim Sum and I have had a very short, but intensely committed relationship, which began at first bite during our trip to Shanghai last year.

(Indeed, this is a photograph of my very first taste of a Cha Siu Bau at Crystal Jade restaurant.)

So, of course, when G and I landed in Hong Kong, I decided we agreed that our #1 priority was to consume Dim Sum as frequently and as obsessively as possible.

Note: stretchy pants were a MUST WEAR for completing this mission.

Sadly, our camera broke midway through our trip (while I was rabidly snapping pictures of food, mind you), so I only have a few photographs that capture our Dim Sum frenzy.

These photos were taken at the famous Maxim’s Palace, a majestic banquet-hall-of-a-restaurant with a beautiful panoramic view of the city.  The food was delicious & abundant, but I must warn you that eating at Maxim’s usually requires a wait (we drooled for 20 minutes before we were seated) and it felt a bit too touristy for my hole-in-the-wall likings (Hong Kongers, what do you think? I may be wrong about this one).

Another great Dim Sum recommendation for those of you traveling to Hong Kong, is Tim Ho Wan.  Tim’s restaurant is much less fancy than Maxim’s, BUT what it lacks in decor it makes up for in (perfect) taste & a Michelin star (!), not to mention- LOW prices!

Hong Kong dim sum

Image from CNNGO.com, click photo to read the full article

And while we are on the topic of low prices, I want to tell you a bit about the Australia Dairy Company.

This canteen came highly recommended by various interweb sources, stating that Australia Dairy serves the BEST scrambled eggs… but I’m afraid to tell you that this is not at all exactly true.

Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely fun to experience canteen-style dining in Hong Kong, but food-wise, it wasn’t really what we had anticipated.

 We rolled into the restaurant at 7:30 am, expecting to be the first people in the door, but the place was already packed with hungry locals.  We were hurriedly seated at a table with a sweet couple who recommended the restaurant’s famed breakfast order of scrambled eggs with white bread toast, accompanied by ham and noodle soup.  (And we just had to add-on some egg pudding because it’s DELIGHTCIOUS, and who doesn’t want a 3 course meal at dawn?)

We ordered, a minute later, we ate (yes, that is exactly how long it took to get our food), and then we were puzzled.  We didn’t get it- what’s all the hype about?   THE BEST scrambled eggs?!  That’s a strong statement.  And I disagree.

Moving on!

Wait, did I just post a picture of Pret A Manger, spotted and hearted at an underground Hong Kong metro stop?

Yes, I really did.  Please don’t judge, you have no idea what tears of joy this Pret kiosk caused as G & I perused the bountiful sandwich assortment.  (Seoul is not big on my-style sandwiches.)

And while I’m confessing my foodie sins, I shall also admit to you that we dined at the famous ramen chain, Ippudo…

located in a mall.  A freakin’ mall.

I know, for shame.  But my word, that is some amazing ramen.

In fact, I would say, it is the best, Jerry, the best.

***

Okay kids- it’s bed time for this hungry dumpling.  Until the next one!

Le Brunchie Restaurant – Garosu Gil

14 Nov

Do you have those friends that you’ve known for a relatively short period of time (let’s say, a cumulative 9 hours, give or take), but they immediately feel like family?  Well, that’s how I feel about J & O.

And for this exact reason, when J & O come to Seoul, I research restaurants EXTRA EXTRA hard to try and introduce them to some real gems.  (As you may have already realized, food and family are completely intertwined in my eyes.  And stomach.)

This time around, we found Le Brunchie – the perfect spot for an intimate & delicious brunch(ie).

Don’t believe me?  Check out the menu for yourself.  There are some awesome & elevated Western choices.

It took us about 30 minutes to order because we wanted to try everything, so eventually we pretty much ordered just that.

My favorites were the Bruschetta,

Yep, that is steak & egg between the bread and the greens.

the Salade Niçoise,

Perhaps it is due to my Israeli/San Franciscan roots, but I am ALWAYS on the hunt for a good salad, especially in Seoul where a satisfying and healthy salad is hard to come by. (Hi. Mayonnaise is not a dressing.)

…MMMM…

the French Toast,

and the Eggs Benedict, which, unfortunately, was not photographed before it was devoured. Oops!

We also had the Chicken Salad, which was fantastic but very small- a chiquitito piece of chicken atop of a tiny bed of greens.  A good option if you aren’t too hungry, but seriously, is that ever the case?  If so, I applaud you… now teach me your ways.

Overall, it was a delectable meal that lasted 3 hours (no joke) with fantastic new/old friends.  I’d highly recommend Le Brunchie, in fact, I loved it so much that I returned twice in one week!

***

Directions:

Le Brunchie has moved locations!  It is no longer marked by the X on the map below.  The new location – is close to the Spain Club (noted on the map).

FYI: This map was borrowed from the blog, Painting the Passports Brown & originally created by Seoul Selection, which publishes the BEST & most intricate Seoul guide books and magazines that I have yet to encounter.

This Week I Liked…

11 Nov

Veterans Day

Thank you to the veterans & all those still serving in the Armed Forces.

***

Pepero Day!

On 11/11 (November 11th) of every year, Koreans celebrate Pepero Day by giving friends, family and lovers Pepero candy.  What is Pepero? Only my favorite Korean delight – a cookie stick dipped in chocolate.  Delicious, trust.

The reason Pepero Day is celebrated on 11/11 is because the date itself resembles 4 Pepero sticks.  This year, we celebrated SUPER Pepero Day because it was 11/11/11.  Oh the glory!

Above: Our local mini-mart Peperos-it-up with extra signage and an outside stand.

So, basically, what you should glean from this informative post is: (1) The Pepero marketing team is amazing (2) November is a good time to visit Korea if you are a chocoholic (3) Valentine’s Day can no longer be considered the most commercialized holiday.

***

Our Newest Family Member

Meekus, our newest family member, relaxes in the kitchen.

Welcome home.

***

Apple Soju

Apple flavored alcohol in an actual apple? Heavenly.

Sipped on at Chungdam Ann Restaurant

Address: 강남구 청담1동 118-19

Tokyo Highlights (Part 1)

23 Aug

Planning a trip to Tokyo?

Then you know that Japan’s capital city can be a bit overwhelming.

Tokyo is huge, modern, unexpected, fast, bright, electric, stylish, and unbelievably gorgeous.  (Yes, I could use every positive adjective to describe it, but I think you get the point.)  There are so many sites and flavors that it’s easy to be daunted by Tokyo’s immensity.

So, if you want to visit Japan, or if you’re just interested in sampling a bit of Tokyo from your computer screens- I’m happy to share my top-Tokyo-picks, in hopes of making a BIG city feel a bit smaller.

So, first thing’s first – to get around Tokyo, you must be equipped with at least 1 good guide book.  I mainly used Lonely Planet’s Tokyo City Guide as well as Tokyo Encounter.

But here’s the catch…

No matter how much you read, organize, plan and prepare – you will get lost in Tokyo.  Fact.  Own it and get comfortable with it because it’s just going to happen.  Tokyo’s streets are rarely named and the buildings are numbered in the order in which they were constructed – so following a map or finding an address isn’t easy AT ALL (even for the savviest of navigators).  Luckily, if you really are a lost sheep, you can always rely on the trusty Japanese, who are EXTREMELY nice and super helpful.

Okay, so now that you are mentally and emotionally prepared for this adventure, it’s time to dive into one of the coolest cities in the world.

First stop: Tsukiji Market

Quick tip: Unless you want fish guts all over your feet, I'd highly recommend close-toed shoes for the day!

Tsukiji is Japan’s biggest wholesale fish market, and is packed to the brim with colorful stalls selling over 450 different types of seafood.  G & I got an early start on Tsukiji (arriving around 7:00 or 8:00 am) to fully experience the hustle & bustle of the market in action – and trust me, there was ACTION!

In fact, the first time I went to Tsukiji, I was so consumed by all the colors and activity (like an infant attracted to light and sound), that I almost got run-over by a zooming mini-tractor-cart-thingee without even noticing *woops*!

Lucky for me, Superman G saw the electric cart speeding in my direction and pulled me backward by yanking my shirt (and then I got mad at him for stretching out my T…  I’m not a morning person).

After wandering the many aisles of the fish market, G & I headed to breakfast with our friend K, at the nearby Sushi Daiwa (and later came back to eat at the neighboring, Sushi Dai- which was even tastier! tel. 03/3547-6797), where we devoured the freshest sushi in Tokyo.

Think it’s weird to eat raw fish for breakfast?!  Think again!

I’m drooling as I post these pics.  Tuna, scallops, yellowtail, shrip, tomago… what more can a sushi fanatic ask for?!?  Oh, and please note the intense amount of ginger that the chef so lovingly placed in front of me (per my request… alright, I begged).  I’m not ashamed to admit that I had 2 more heaping servings of ginger that morning.

YUM!

To walk off our breakfast belly, we took a quick stroll to & through the beautiful Hama-Rikyu gardens.

The serenity of Hama-Rikyu helped us unwind and relax after a crazizle morning at the market.  When we finally felt bastante rejuvenated, we walked towards the Garden’s pier, where we caught a sightseeing boat up the Sumida River to Asakusa.

By the way, if you take this boat tour & are offered a weird looking waffle-covered-ice-cream-sandwich-type-thing, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and buy it!  G hasn’t stopped dreaming about this yummy & bizarre treat since.

The boat dropped us off at Asakusa, where we visited Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple.

And when in Tokyo temples, do as the locals do – so we spritzed ourselves with healing water, burned some incense and got our Buddhist fortune on.

As you can imagine, performing all these Japanese Buddhist rituals can really make a girl (and guy) pretty hungry.  So, after a quick tour around the old & quaint alleys of Asakusa, G & I met our friends for a delicious tempura lunch at Daikokuya (tel. 03/3844-1111).

Feeling fat and happy after yet another great meal – we lazily decided to head to Ginza, one of the poshest and most expensive shopping districts in Tokyo.

And, of course, where there is status, there is the Gap!  😉

(Miss you guys!)

FYI- this picture was actually taken in Shibuya's Gap, but I thought I'd add it anyway

All kidding aside, if you like international luxury brands and beautifully modern stores – Ginza is your place.

Unfortunately, with no full-time job and the slight absence of incoming $$$, I did not have the best time in Ginza- swooning over product that I couldn’t afford to buy.

In retrospect, I would have much preferred to spend a low-key afternoon exploring the less touristy areas of Ebisu, Daikanyama & Naka Meguro (which I visited with J on my most recent trip to Tokyo).  These neighborhoods have no major sights, but are littered with hip cafes, well-designed boutiques, and European-type streets.  If I could live in Tokyo – this would definitely be my area of choice.

Exhausted of this post yet?!  So am I…  Too bad we haven’t even gotten to Tokyo’s nightlife, Japanese sub-cultures and, HELLO, shopping!  If you are still interested (and honestly, I commend you for reading up to this point) – tune in later this week for my Tokyo Highlights Part 2.

What I Eat – A Taste of Life in Korea

25 Jul

Hi. My name is Ayelet.  And I’m a fruit-aholic.

I am mad for summer fruits.

Nectarines, peaches, watermelons- OH MY -I just can’t get enough.  Problem is, I really should just get enough because buying fruit in Korea is like buying a Chanel bag-  it’s always good, but never worth the exorbitant price.  Hello, $10 for 4 apricots!

But guess who buys those darn apricots regardless?!  I have a problem.

Okay, okay, I know I am a spoiled California girl who loves to buy her fresh organic produce from local farmers’ markets at a fair price (cliché, yet so true)… I should really stop complaining.

And to be perfectly honest, there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to food in Seoul.  There is ample fresh produce (although, I’m not sure that I can identify 1/2 of the vegetables at the supermarket) and a tremendous array of delicious restaurants in Korea, which is quite surprising for a country that prides itself on fermenting any and everything.

Now, seriously, would you know what this was if it showed up in your supermarket?

 Oh and how the Koreans love their fermented cabbage, otherwise known as Kimchi.  I had never tasted kimchi before living in Seoul, but it definitely tastes like it looks: some good, some bad, some ugly.

But we can dive into the glory of Kimchi in another post… now I want to tell you guys what I really eat in Korea.

The past few weeks, in particular, have been a fooding frenzy, causing me to buckle my belt 1 notch in the wrong direction.  I’ve really eaten a lot… and instead of going to the gym, I’ve decided to just picture-blog away the shame/pride of all that I’ve consumed.

(1) Drool-worthy panino from La Bocca restaurant. Fresh mozzarella in Seoul? I almost cried.

(2) Sushi at California restaurant in Gangnam.  Frankly, I liked the name of the place more than the rolls.

(3) M & I took a picture at a restaurant that we couldn’t dine at because of a 2 hour line winding out the door!

(4) That bright orange snack is Tteokbokki, a popular street food that G & I sometimes comfort ourselves with.

(5) A group of friends at our favorite Korean BBQ place.  It’s a once-a-week delight.

*K invited all of the Samsung GSG’s better halves (yes, that’s what we call ourselves) to a chocolate party at her house. I had to seriously stop myself from sticking my head straight into the chocolate fountain.  (You can’t even imagine how hard it is to find good chocolate in Seoul! And K found & bought 2 kilos of it!)

*Noryangjin Fish Market – absolutely the BEST place for sashimi, scallops and abalone.  I always eat my heart out here.

*G & I went to this divey Korean restaurant to follow the Korean tradition of eating Samgyetang, a ginseng chicken soup, on 3 specific summer days.  These 3 days are pre-assigned & pre-determined by Koreans as the hottest days of the year, and the soup is eaten on these days to infuse you with enough nutrients to survive the hot summers.

Counter to prognostication, it was mild and rainy on the day we went for our Samgyetang.

*This photo collage is framed by Kash’s baked ziti, that had me going for seconds…and thirds…and fourths

*I also wanted to show you the individually wrapped Starbucks bananas.  Because it’s Korea.

*The center shot is of M’s blueberry goodness.  This week I also got my dessert on with M’s amazing apple crisp and perfect m&m brownies.  She is the best, and the worst!

So you see, loving mother and foodie friends, I am not starving in Seoul.  In fact, I’m not ashamed to admit that after writing about food for WAY too many hours, I’ve really built up an appetite.  Don’t judge.

Bon Appétit!