Monday, 26 March 2012

TGIF! Mandu At Insadong, Beer In Jong-no

It's not only Count Dracula and his vampire bats who like going out on a Friday night. Some tourists also do! Ha-ha-ha!
So, last Friday night, I met up with Agnes, a former colleague from Manila, and her friends Bea, Jay and Ayeen in Insadong for dinner and some chatting.  They're here in Seoul to sightsee, relax and get away from work (and probably from other things they didn't tell me. Ha-ha-ha!)When friends from Manila visit Seoul, I always like to meet up with them.  They usually bring me some news, the latest gossip and... hopia! Ha-ha-ha!
And although Friday night's weather included some drizzle, umbrellas and wet shoes, we all met up in Insadong, where I brought them to the best place in Seoul where you can enjoy mandu, the Korean dumpling. Lucky for us, we didn't have to wait that long for a table at Koong Mandu, where diners are welcomed into the restaurant with a portrait of the family's grandmother who preserved the recipe everyone enjoyed that night. 

From the wall of the restaurant, the grandmother gazes around and sort of watches everyone who comes in to enjoy her dumplings. And her pleasant stare conveys her appreciation to diners, who came from afar (from Manila, perhaps, with tired feet, heavy shopping bags and all!) to taste her mandu recipe. Of course, her stare also reminds everyone to finish everything on the plate. No leftovers! Ha-ha-ha!

    (Posing with grandmother's portrait at the restaurant)

So, after burping!  We all bade good-bye to grandma (it was way past her bedtime!), and crossed into the dark side! The bars of Jongno!

As expected on a Friday night, most bars were full! We walked through the alley full of bright neon signs, umbrellas and barkers calling people into their bars. As expected, no barker ever dared invite us (English must be one of the reasons).  But at the end of the alley, finally! Frypan bar had a table for four, which became a table for five! We were able to squeeze in!
(The neon lights of Jongno) 
Well, it's not only Count Dracula who could turn night time into fun time. Even with the rain, wet sidewalks and the cold temperatures in Seoul, we still had a lot of fun while meandering through the dark small alleys of Insadong, and the bright bar alleys of Jongno
                                 (Having fun in Jongno)

I hope Agnes, Bea, Jay and Ayeen indeed had TGIF in Seoul. It was fun sharing all the mandu, beer, stories (gossip, actually, ha-ha-ha!), and news from home with you, guys! (And to Agnes, thanks for hopia!).
And grandma also hopes you get to visit her again. She and her mandu will be waiting.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Zumba In Zeoul!

Muchas gracias to Senor Alberto Perez of Colombia for creating this very dance-y and fun-y fitness craze, Zumba

Zumba has now reached Zeoul and has its own Zumbees (I first thought of using Zumbelles but Zumbee sounds cute. Just don't spell it like zombie, or we'd be talking about horror movies. Ha-ha-ha!).
                                                  (Zumba teacher Lynn!)
 On one chilly weekend, Zumba teacher, Lynn Smith gathered her friends, as well as friends of friends, for an afternoon session of Zumba fun and fitness in the Yongsan-gu area!  

According to Wikipedia, "Zumba involves dance and aerobic elements and incorporates hip-hop, soca (I don't even know what it is), samba (I know the beat), salsa (I know the taste), merengue (I know how it's baked), mambo, martial arts (of course, karate), and some Bollywood and belly dance moves."

And from the first beat of the Zumba tunes she prepared, Lynn drove everyone to move, not just like Jagger, but like Zumbees on a mission: to sweat, to lose weight, to get fit and most of all, to have fun!

I wasn't exactly on the floor doing the moves like everyone else; I was at the back taking photos and well, eating! Ha-ha-ha!

              (Zumba, callos and Coke! Not exactly in that order)

Perhaps, the biggest difference between any Zumba session and a Zumba session organized by Filipinos! 

                                                         (Zumba zangria!)

                       (A Zumba buffet table! Ha-ha-ha!)

In case you get tired, you could just take a break at the back, and gobble up kimbap, fresh fruits, pancit, maja blanca, French bread, banana turon and of course, Mary Joyce's unforgettable callos and arroz caldo! It was a Zumba picnic! We even had Zumba zangria!

                                           (Freshly baked French bread)

                (Mary Joyce's arroz caldo and callos!)

And as if one Zumba teacher wasn't enough, fellow Zumba teachers Tita and Yira also came and conducted sessions, leaving everyone breathless and a few pounds lighter (that is, if we don't consider the callos, pancit and arroz caldo. Ha-ha-ha!).
                                              (Banana turon from Joy!)

I think Zumba is a fun alternative to your usual aerobics class because it's all about dancing as well as aerobics. 
                                                  (Zumba teacher Tita!)

I hope the next time Lynn schedules her next Zumba picnic, er, session, I will have the time to join. But right now, I haven't decided yet whether it's the dancing I look forward to....or the eating! Ha-ha-ha!
                                                (Zumba teacher Yira!)

                                   (The Zumbees!)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tablea Tsokolate And Mary Grace Fruitcake On A Sunday

My days at the office are getting longer. And my working week, well, extends until the weekend. But what I look forward to during the weekend (even though I sometimes have to work!), is the getting up late and not worrying about dressing up for the office.

And today, a Sunday, when I had the luxury of making myself breakfast, I remembered I had some tablea tsokolate somewhere!  So I boiled milk and melted a chunk of tablea tsokolate, although not as good as what my Mom makes at home in the Philippines. Her hot tsokolate always brings back childhood memories.
But today, since I'm far away from home, I had to make do with the milk I got from Emart and the tablea tsokolate I got from a supermarket in Manila. And close enough it was!

And while scavenging through my refrigerator, I knew somewhere inside was a box of unopened Mary Grace fruitcake! My thoughtful friend, Cielo, who happens to be Mary Grace's wacky sister, got me this as a send-off gift before I flew back to Seoul last January. And since fruitcakes can last for six months, this box was as fresh as spring flowers (although I haven't seen any bloom in my neighborhood)!
So, here I am, sipping my hot tsokolate with Mary Grace fruitcake and just being grateful that even with this busy workload (I still have to work today!), I still have these goodies from home reminding me that when I fly home someday, my Mom's hot tsokolate will always be waiting for me, not just on a Sunday, but perhaps everyday, at the breakfast table.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

To Downtown And Back

I haven't seen my good friend, Jeeho, in a long time. We always had this plan to meet up for dinner and drinks, but it never happened. These days, he always works late. I work even later. Ha-ha-ha!

So, we decided on not planning on dinner anymore. How about lunch?!

And yesterday, on my lunch break, I headed downtown. And after 15 minutes in a cab, I was at his doorstep! The lobby of the Seoul Finance Center!
And while waiting for him as he tried to separate himself from his financial derivatives, I stood there in front of a centerpiece artwork at the lobby: a lot of violas clustered together and looking like a string orchestra but without musicians!
It was titled Power of Music and must have cost a lot money to commission. It would have cost more had they been Stradivarius. But then, nobody just displays any Stradivarius on a lobby. You display and play it at Carnegie Hall!
Although our Thai lunch wasn't as expensive as those violas, it was a fun catching up with a friend in between sips of the spicy tom yam soup. A quick chat and a quick lunch it was.
And before we parted, we headed to the nearest Starbucks. My good friend wanted me to enjoy an iced cafe mocha as I made my way back to my office. The Thai lunch and Starbucks were his treat, by the way. 
And as I took my ride back to the office with my coffee, I realized that meeting friends over lunch was easier than having to plan dinner when everyone seems to be busy at night working and making money. Ha-ha-ha!
Thanks, Jee for the lunch and coffee!   Until next time, when those violas won't be just on display. Perhaps, someone would be playing them?  Lunch and coffee on me next time!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Noon Time Is Soondae Time In Myeongdong!

Before I flew out of Korea in December, my very helpful Korean friend, JK, helped me get some Starbucks a discount! I met up with him in Myeong-dong to get the mugs, and he treated me to a buddae-jiggae lunch as a send-off lunchee!

(A very sad looking Spiderman. With a lot of tall buildings around him, he must have run out of spider webs.)

Now that I am back in Seoul, I wanted to return the favor. So, today, at noon, I took the subway and got off at Myeongdong Station, and headed towards his office building.

This time, I had a little present for him: a pack of Mangorind candies from the Philippines!
 (The restaurant was packed when he got there. 
But the wait was worth it!)
On my way to his office building, I was surprised to see a soondae restaurant!  That's where we decided to grab lunch! Soondae! My favorite!

(I counted how many slices of soondae in my broth. 
Only...4!    Why only 4? I want more!)

During weekends, Myeong-dong is pack of tourists and shoppers. But during weekdays, it's a lovely place to walk through with less traffic and more space for one to navigate.
 (Must be an opening of a new store. Guys and balloons in black, and girls in trench coats.)
And today, walking through Myeong-dong, meeting a good friend and enjoying a favorite Korean dish were a lot to be thankful for on a busy week at work.

Until the next lunchee, JK!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Congratulations To The Incredible Meryl Streep!

I knew she would win her third Oscar this time.

As I left Landcinema that night after watching The Iron Lady, I still didn't know what actually hit me.  As the closing credits of the movie were rolling down the screen, I still didn't  realize that the film was over. I was just blown away by  Meryl Streep's performance.

And while the elevator of Landcinema was taking me down from the 5th floor to the ground, I told myself that Meryl Streep would win the 2012 Oscar's best actress trophy. And she did win!

Her performance was just above everyone else's last year. Not even Viola Davis, who was favored to win the Oscar and who actually won the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actress trophy, could come close. (By the way, Viola and Meryl were together in the film, Doubt).

In the film for which she won her first best actress Oscar, Sophie's Choice, Meryl spoke in Polish (and with perfect accent!), and had to lose weight as a holocaust prisoner.  With such dedication to the character, that performance is hailed as one of the finest performances ever by an actor! 

I wonder what film (and character) she's going to give us next. But whatever it will be, I so look forward to watching the next movie of one of the most talented actors of our time.

Congratulations, Meryl!
(A photo I took of Meryl Streep's hand and shoe impressions at the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. I almost fell to my knees to worship it. Ha-ha-ha!)

Friday, 2 March 2012

What To Eat? Buko Pie, Of Course!

Vielen danke to Frau Sarah!  

I always am thankful for generous and thoughtful friends who always remember to feed me. Ha-ha-ha! And today, my friend Sarah, who just flew in from Manila, brought me a box of buko pie!  A pasalubong (present) from Los Banos, Laguna in the Philippines!
So, on this cloudy day in winter, just when I was about to ask myself a difficult question:  What to eat?
I realized the answer was already sitting on my desk. Buko pie, anyone?
Thanks again, Sarah!