Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Night At The Castle

*** PLEASE NOTE: this is an event that happened back in JULY but for technical reasons was never published on my blog. I know it's somewhat untimely, but it was such a beautiful evening I felt it necessary to put up. 

Last Friday, was the highly anticipated event "Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012", hosted by the Korean Consulate in Toronto. The venue was one of the best the city has to offer in my opinion, Casa Loma. I grew up just a few blocks away from the Castle, so it definitely holds a special place for me. It is a grande, majestic and lavish location to throw a party.

Welcome to Casa Loma
My boyfriend and I arrived fashionably late and things were well under way (no one and nothing was ever on time in Korea, I guess that trait didn't make it all the way to Canada). The main entranceway upon entering the castle was set up with different stalls sampling some of Korea's favourite bits and bites. The room was packed with people and within the first few minutes you could tell there was a great turn out and the night was destined for success.

Line ups to sample of the eats.

Korean food, on show. 

Peperro, amongst other goodies.

Chocopies, a Korean fave!

Posing with some ginseng.

We said our hello's to the Consul general and his wife, a few other friends from the  consulate, Cindy, another Korea blogger, and a small selection of familiar faces. Garry and I popped out onto the balcony just to appreciate the castle in its splendour. The grounds and gardens and fountains are so beautiful all around the property it was almost a shame not to be outside soaking it all in on such a gorgeous evening. But duty called.

Quite quickly following the small reception in the main hall the doors to the dining area were opened and peopled were called in to find their seats. We were assigned tables upon arrival and we were at lucky number 17. At our table were 2 people from the Japanese consulate. Cindy and her guest, a producer from Arirang Korea TV and his camera guy. We were an eclectic little bunch and it made the evening even more enjoyable.

As per the title of the event (Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012), the night was all about food, one of my favourite things about Korea. The dinner set up was gorgeous. There was one main dining room with a podium for the hosts and a small stage set up. There was also the conservatory where we sat, filled with more tables and TV screens set up to see the action from the main room. One of the best parts of attending these events is that I have my big camera with me at all times and I am free to roam (within reason) where I please. As a blogger, that's what I'm there to do. So even though technically I was seated in the conservatory. I was out and about shooting pics anywhere I saw fit. Especially during the special performances. Okay, one thing at a time, back to the food.

The menus we were provided with before the food started coming out was so beautifully detailed in Korean and English. I had a huge difficulty knowing the names of all the dishes I ate in Korea and being able to pronounce them properly. So it was a real treat to read what the Korean name of the dish was and the ingredients in English. Never was there a decent Korean meal served without the accompaniment of a slew of bottles of soju. I was curious to see if Korea's national alcohol would make it on the table at this fancy affair. Instead of soju, we were served bekseju, the best possible alternative. Soju and bekseju are similar drinks (in my humble opinion), but the latter has just a nicer, more pleasant, fragrant taste.

I had major camera envy for Mingu's equipment.

The first course to come out was pumpkin soup. After the soup came a plate of japchae (noodles with veggies) and a skewer of boneless beef rib, with crab meat, pepper, egg and mushroom.

The main course was braised beef ribs and steamed king prawn. These were accompanied by a mixture of vegetables. Korean meals are always served with plenty of banchan, side dishes. The banchan served was cabbage kimchi, braised lotus root, and a stuffed cucumber kimchi. No meal in ever complete without rice, or a rice dish, so the last course was bibimbap, a Korean classic. This is a combination of julienned vegetables (usually carrot, mushroom, sprouts, zucchini), combined with gojuchang  (red pepper paste), a few other flavours and egg. It's served separate and then combined together at the table. Fantastic! 


The main course. 

A favorite, bibimbap.

And last on the menu was dessert. There was a beautiful fruit salad/punch served with sweet rice balls.

Kom Bai!
(cheers in Korean)

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