Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2nd Christmas in Korea

MERRY CHRISTMAS!          매리크리스마스! 

I cannot believe this is already the second Christmas I have celebrated in Korea. Time sure flies when you're having fun. Without sounding too horribly cheesy, there was a world of difference between this Christmas and the last one, and it mostly boils down to one thing (and by thing, I mean person). Garry (insert ooohs & awwws here). Last Christmas I had just arrived in Korea and had just started making friends. I had a great group of people to spend Christmas Eve with, I just didn't know them very well at the time. And Christmas day was spent skiing, mostly just trying to forget that I was missing my friends and family at home a lot. Christmas with my family is a really fun time of year, and being the spoiled baby of the family, I missed all the craziness and excitement and hubbub of Christmas day.

Fast forward to Christmas 2011. Garry and I kept ourselves so busy all weekend, so even though I was still missing family and friends, we had a really great time together. Friday evening we had tickets to go see a theatre production called Legend of the Flower. It was playing at the Walkerhill Theatre, inside the Sheraton/Westin hotel complex in Seoul. I had never been to this area, and wow, it was classy. The hotel complex was massive. It had a skating rink, casino, restaurants, bars, duty free shopping mall and obviously the theatre, amongst other things. It was so impressive. The production itself was nothing to write home about. Nice costumes, lots of dancing, but it was all sprinkled with a healthy dose of tackiness in my opinion. None the less, it was a good excuse to dress up and be out for the night. We stopped in the bar at the Westin for a drink before we left and oh my word!!! There was not a drink on the menu for under 30,000 won! High end was an understatement.

The rest of the weekend pretty much revolved around food and over indulgence in general. I woke up on Saturday morning to Garry cooking up a version of his Dad's Christmas breakfast. It was a yummy fry up with eggs and toast and sautéed  onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. Yum yum pop! Garry also added a really nice touch of super cheesiness with heart shaped eggs and toast :)

Heart! Heart! Heart!

With full stomachs we slowly made our way out of the apartment to complete the only major task of the day, a trip to Noryangjin Fish Market.We had a seafood meal planned for dinner and wanted nothing but the freshest catch of the day so we headed to Seoul's major market. After walking around and a little bit of bargaining we finally decided on what we wanted. We left with a small plate of fresh sashimi (which Garry polished off as soon as we got home), 2 hearty sized lobsters, and a bag full of jumbo shrimps.

Noryangjin Fish Market, Seoul.

Our sashimi getting chopped up.

Stall, after stall, after stall of seafood.

The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing food. The menu consisted of a green salad with homemade candied pecans, red onions and pomegranate, shrimps wrapped in bacon, veggies and giant lobsters. The funniest part of the preparation process was when we took the lobster out just before they plunged to their death, we checked out what was printed on the thick elastics keeping their claws together. Guess what was written? IMPORTED FROM CANADA. We got a good chuckle out of that one, massive FAIL. Oh well, we got a taste of home on the holidays without even intending to.

Making strawberry cheesecake.

Dinner is in the works.

Bacon wrapped jumbo shrimps.



Garry downloaded some application for his computer, which was a fireplace burning, crackling sounds and all  (check it out here- Fire HD for Macs) . We had it on almost all weekend and I think it may be my new favorite thing. I love sitting by a real fireplace and just having the crackling noise and flickering lights gave a new mood to the apartment. After a few glasses of wine while cooking I took a compulsory quick nap by the fire before dinner. We didn't end up eating till almost 9:00, but it was just the 2 of us and we weren't on any time schedule so it suited us just fine.

Compulsory Christmas Eve nap by the fire.

Home Sweet Home.

Dinner was amazing. Garry and I make a really good team in the kitchen. We pick up where the other one leaves off and considering our kitchen is about the size of a postage stamp, we did well. Garry boiled the lobsters in a mirepoix (made of sauteed veggies, spices, wine and water ) as opposed to just plain water and it gives the lobster so much more flavour. With the leftover shells he even made a lobster soup for us later in the evening. I caught me a good one (boyfriend, not lobster).

Christmas Eve spread.

Bon Apetit!

Dessert was not as epic as dinner was, sorry Garry (and Ann & Lindsay if you get around to reading this). His parents sent us some Scottish Christmas pudding and custard and um, yeah. The custard wasn't really sweet, I think maybe Garry messed up on making it and the actual cake part was fruity Christmas cake, not my cuppa tea. I missed all my mom's Christmas cookies and cakes. A lot.

Scottish Christmas pudding.

My first cheesecake, the final product.

On the dessert front we spent part of the afternoon making dessert for Christmas day and that was a huge success. I love cooking but I am not really into making desserts, so this was a first. We made a strawberry cheesecake that looked gorgeous and ended up thankfully tasting even better.

Night caps.

So we ended up finishing off Christmas Eve curled up with Bailey's watching The Christmas Story.

Everything was just right.


We were up so late on Christmas Eve that I actually slept in on Christmas Day. I NEVER SLEEP IN ON CHRISTMAS DAY (refer to early sentence about being the spoiled baby of the family). But it was late morning by the time I rolled out of bed. My Mom's brunch on Christmas morning at home is amazing. I did my very best to recreate bits and pieces of it and it turned out really well. I made my Mom's brie souffle with blueberry sauce for the first time and it didn't match hers but I loved it (and ate leftovers of it all week). We had some leftover shrimps and a lobster tail, fresh bread, fruits,  eggs and champagne. Spoiled to perfection.

The Christmas Day breakfast spread.

Lobster tail leftovers.

After breakfast we opened presents from each other and a bunch sent from home. My Mom, as always went out of her way to make me happy on Christmas. We had a small Ferrero Rocher Christmas tree and our whole countertop was littered with goodies.

We were invited to have Christmas dinner with Natalia and Denis, our Russian friends down in Osan (who are immigrating to CANADA!), a welcome relief from cooking all weekend. Natalia is a fantastic cook so we knew we'd be in for a treat. We arrived at their place just after 5 and shortly after sat down to a huge feast. Natalia cooked a duck and an Uzbekistan pork and rice pilaf for dinner and then a huge assortment of side dishes. There were eggplants stuffed with mince meat and veggies, tuna and cheese wraps, egg salad tarts, mushrooms prepared a la Russsian way, and some other delicious crab rolls. Seriously, it was out of this world.  So. Much. Food. All of this with intermittent shots of vodka, beer for the boys and wine for the girls. What a feast. And then there was dessert. I was so full, but I can pretty much always make a little room for dessert. My cheesecake made its debut and I am so proud to say it tasted amazing!

Natalia, duck and I.

Some of the side dishes.

Egg salad tarts
(even the pastry shell was homemade).

Part of the Christmas Day spread.

Cooked Duck.

Natalia and my Godson, Anthony.

Natalia and Denis are a wonderful couple, we don't see them very often but when we do it's always a good time. I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend a Christmas away from home.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy 40th Anniversary KOCIS!

The new slogan.

I had the pleasure this week, to attend the 40th Anniversary party for KOCIS (Korean Culture and Information Service). It was held in the ballroom at The Westin Chosun in Seoul and was a beautiful venue for such a momentous occasion. There were only 2 other bloggers from The Korea Blog there with me in a room full of very important looking people, so I felt really honoured to be part of the celebration.

Photo Exhibit

There was a photo exhibition just as you entered the room. The exhibit was called The Dreams of KOCIS at the Age of 40. Inside, the room was set up with a centre stage and podium, cat walk, and a slew of round tables set for dinner and looking pristine. To get things started off inside there was an opening video showing KOCIS over the years. For the small group of foreigners in attendance there were live translation headsets which was a great touch. Countless times in Korea, for obvious reasons, so much gets past me, but not this evening. I got to take part and understand everything that went on throughout the evening.

The Venue
The MC's

The Masters of the Ceremonies were introduced and shortly there after came an awards ceremony for those people who have made a difference at KOCIS. There were speeches, and congratulations and many thanks given out. This went on for a long time, leaving people excited to move on to the next part of the evening.

Modern dance number.

K-Pop girl band F/X

Classical music performed by young students.

Music. The first of the entertainment segment was a modern dance number that was a little left field for my liking but still interesting. Really minimalist music and weird bodily contortions by the 3 men and one female dancer. It was a really nice juxtaposition to the candy coated K-Pop group F/X that was up next. This is my second time seeing Korea's super hot 'it' bands playing live and even though it's superficially entertaining to so sit and watch, I do NOT understand the national obsession there is with K-Pop. This is the second number the girls performed, one of their top songs. See for yourself.

Fashion. Next on the agenda was a fashion show. 'Hanbok- Clothing of the Wind' was the theme of the clothes showed by top Korean designer Lee Young-hee. It started out with very ornate and traditional hanbok fashions and then progressed to really modern and unique designs. I later found out this designer is quite controversial in Korea because she takes such liberties as changing the original style of hanbok, but in her defense she does such an incredible job at it. Hanbok is slowly losing its popularity in Korea. The younger generations find less and less opportunity to don such fashions. Yet Lee Young-hee, with her designs is combining the old look with something a little more fashionable and making it appealing to the modern Korean woman. Actually, I would be more than happy to wear some of the pieces I saw on the catwalk. Here is a selection of both the classic hanbok style and some modern twists of it.

Food. After many different things to feast our eyes on, it was finally time to indulge our taste buds. There was a special meal put together for the event , it was called 'Hansik with Stories'. Hansik 한 식 means a tradional Korean meal, usually composed of rice, soup, meat or fish and a vast array of side dishes, called banchan 반찬. The meal was prepared by a Korean traditional food specialist, Yoon Sook-ja. As the meal was being brought out, she took us through each of the dishes served and all the different ingredients, colours, symbols and tastes.

The first course was a plate of 3 tiny king crab rolls with citrus dressing. It was shortly followed by a pumpkin soups, one of my favorites in Korea. The main dish was grilled beef 'Neoboano' and a vegetable pancake. The beef was cooked rare and it was melt in your mouth delicious. The side dishes were kimchi, japchae, bulgogi, fruit kimchi, and a mixture of candied nuts. After this was steamed rice and a mussel and seaweed soup.


Crab Rolls

Pumpkin Soup

The Main Course

Rice & Seaweed Soup


Korean Sweet Tea

Suzy, Elenora & I in the middle. 

After dinner was a specially brewed Korean sweet tea, with a dish of fruits and deokk (rice cakes). In typical Korean style, the meal was served, consumed and cleared in record timing and the guests quickly dispersed. My blogging companions and I headed to Myeongdong and battled the holiday rush for coffees. It was a nice way to end a nice evening. Thanks KOCIS for including me in the celebrations!