International Bacon Day (IBD). Wow, finally a festival to truly celebrate. Thank goodness for porcine goodness and the love of my wife, for finding truly awe-inspiring ways to fill in spare time. It began like this. Wake up early. Sensory level overload. The week has consisted of waiting for the perfectly smoked pork to be ready for eating. Celia has this great method of curing and smoking pork to make perfect bacon. Why? Well you try to buy bacon where we live and you will be disappointed. In fact I would be surprised if we ever have to buy bacon again. Buying pigs is more likely. Breakfast. Homemade crumpets, homemade bacon, flat whites. Can it get any better? Sometimes it really does pay to take time to weigh up what you have. Regardless, first celebratory IBD, and I’m well happy.
Monday night. No bookings. Arrived 6 pm. Table for four. No problems. Lets relax. Drinks. All good. No lager on tap he says. Into it. Wait person wants to order for us. Are we taking too long here? Water refills abound, we must look dehydrated. Do they really have to reach right across the table to replenish glasses? They do, it’s tight in here. Food decisions made. You’re not ordering enough, he says. Oh. It’s plates to share here. Toilet run. Oh no. The toilets are dishevelled. They’re expanding. No excuse. There is a ladder in one cubicle. It’s a walk in share 6 affair. Enough said, not acceptable. Wine time. Central Otago Pinot on tap. Nice. Food wise highs and lows. New Zealand meat board, did they leave half in the kitchen? Pork hock, more of that please. Our cohorts informed us that this place is impossibile to get into without a wait, any other time. Good times. I was left questioning price to value for money ratio. Repeat visit, maybe for the pre-lunch menu and more Pinot.
Here are my simple ingredients for staying in Beijing.
1. Stay central.
2. You will need bikes.
3. Get lost but have a map.
Simple really. On day one of a recent trip to the big city, we stumbled upon Mr. Beer Supermarket. “Lets just take a quick look” he said. Gobsmacked was the reaction. Big fridges with a big beer selection. Big beer fridges with a big Belgian beer selection. Cold, big beer fridges with a big Belgian beer selection. Well I won’t lie and deny that one beer didn’t become two and I won’t deny that repeat visits weren’t warranted, because they were. This place is small. Has air conditioned inside comfort as well as outside seating. Reasonable prices. Friendly staff. Food if you are so inclined. Wifi. It’s a beer nirvana of sorts. The best part, a Belgian beer glass collection to compliment Belgium’s finest brews.
Mr. Beer Supermarket. Every town needs one. If only I lived more local. Thanks Mr. Beer Supermarket, you have single-handedly reinvigorated my passion for Belgian ale. Check it.
Number 41 Mao Er Hutong, Dongcheng, Beijing.
Temple Restaurant, Beijing. It’s a restaurant inside an old temple that has been a TV factory, amongst other things. It was a hot day in old Beijing. We spent the morning in the Forbidden City, which was busy but thoroughly enthralling. The Temple (TRB) is a bar and restaurant that focuses on high quality food and has a wine manifesto of ample proportions. Escaping the heat, we entered through the backdoor being uncertain of where we were, but that was half the fun. Food wise lunch is a sure fire winner. 3 or 4 course set menu with Amuse Bouche and post dessert jellies included. Bring it on.
My dining decisions read Lyonnais frisee salad, lamb rack and polenta and the super chocolate dessert including Saint Malo, biscuit sacher, chocolate ganache and caramel. In hindsight I might have forgone the salad but the breadbasket complimented it well. Service was all suit and ties. Drinks wise I opted for a sloe gin, Earl Grey, blueberry and citrus infused cocktail and a grand cru Rodenbach Flanders red ale.
I must say that seldom a more enjoyable two hours has passed. But passed it did without fail. Honestly, when you’re next in the big BJ, give it shot.
It’s everywhere. From burger joints, tapas bars and high-end restaurants to my lowly Chinese kitchen. Pulled Pork! It is a delight to eat and certainly easy to make, utilising cheaper cuts of pork, like the shoulder. Finding a recipe to suit your tastes, budget and skill can easily be found on the internet. If you are anything like me, you browse a load of different recipes and then make up your own recipe, a bit of a conglomeration of all of them! I have made it a couple of times now, and each time I change it a bit, depending on what I have on hand etc. Soft, melt-in-your-mouth meat and tangy homemade BBQ sauce on a homemade English Muffin, what more could a girl want. Pulled pork burgers, or tortillas, or sandwiches or whatever as long as there is pulled pork!
The lack of bread options in China can be frustrating. I miss that mouth-watering, yeasty smell of hot bread straight out of the oven. Butter slowly melting as you bite into a nice slice of fresh bread. Yum. So anyway, I decided that enough was enough and a couple of months ago, embarked upon my oven-less bread baking. Thanks to google, I discovered that English Muffins are made on the stove-top, perfect for my oven-less Chinese kitchen. I used this English Muffin recipe and went to work. Baking heaven! A kneading workout! They rose beautifully and after a few minutes in the frying pan were ready to taste. Splitting them burned my fingers in my rush to get them opened and buttered, but it was well worth it.
A good friend of mine took me for a long bike ride just last week. It was exhilarating. On the final leg of the journey he insisted on taking me for beer and snacks, local styles. He knew the place. Eight tables, four occupied. He left me to order beer whilst he went and chose snacks. That’s the way at most of the restaurants around here; you go into the kitchen to order the food, so you can see what’s available. The beer arrived it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t warm either, I can live with that. The food arrived. Four dishes, more like dinner really. We talked about our ride and how bad my Chinese is. It’s a hard language. Finally we got around to the food. Fried broad beans, green vegetable and mushroom, peanuts and what I assumed from the taste was beef. No. It was dog. I had seen dog heads for sale around town. Dogs for eating he assured me. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. I couldn’t imagine eating Betty the Alsatian, we have befriended from down the road. Maybe dogs for eating were dogs I hadn’t seen roaming the streets. The meat was tender, tasted like corned beef and was flavoured with Sichuan pepper and slightly gelatinous. Knowing it was dog tripped me up momentarily. ‘Local food’ my friend assured me. Thankfully, more beer arrived. I was convinced I had enjoyed it. My friend assured me we were stronger for eating dog. Later at home I started to feel a little green. Almost like my stomach was rejecting its contents. I had a cup of tea and a lie down. In the morning I still felt a little under the radar. Could I face it again? Probably. Would I? Depends if it’s a dog for eating or not.