Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beijing final day then Shanghai

A change of pace today I had a free morning before our flight to Shanghai mid afternoon so what to do. Not that I had time to think about it as over breakfast I was told that I would again be put in the car and the driver told to take me to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City as these are must see places in Beijing.
Well I certainly am not one to argue so off I went. The sun actually nearly made it through the smog today and while the extra light was welcome it did bring with it another layer of searing heat. So I got to the square and I must say with mixed feelings given the history here. And again nothing could have prepared me for the size and scale of this place, to say it is huge is a gross understatement they build things big here. And it was packed, tens of thousands of people here in the blazing heat and humidity, the water sellers were doing a brisk trade this day. It is amazing to be standing there surrounded by hundreds of years of history it is a lot to take in. As I walked around and took some photos I was again approached by families and groups to have their photos taken with me, equally bizarre as the when it happened at the wall.

Statue Tiananmen Square
Walking into the Forbidden City

  After walking around the square for a while it was time to head into the Forbidden City even that was an adventure. There were so many people there all trying to get in and you had to go over these little bridges to enter and you were packed in like sardines. Check out the thickness of the walls in the photo on the left. Once in the crowds did not let up it was just go with the flow and see where you came out. Those old emperors did not have it so bad living in a place like this I have seen worse digs.

So after a few hours exploring it was back to the hotel pack, change and onto the airport. Now in my first post I did mention the size of Beijing Airport but seeing it in the light of day WOW it just seems to go on forever. It is the largest modern man made structure that I have seen, you never want to be running late for your flight here as it is a bit more than a quick walk to your gate. So onto Shanghai ,again I had no idea what to expect but I was hoping that being close to the sea it may be a bit cooler, WRONG. While not as smoggy as Beijing, you could actually see the sky and sun here it was just as hot and humid. Now I have mentioned the driving before but our cab ride into the city was up there with the all time scariest experiences of my life. I got the back seat, no seat belts, and while there was air conditioning by the time we got into the city I was a sweating wreck. As well as the, what we had come to expect as normal road behaviour, this trip had the extra thrill of the driver thinking he should be driving an F1 car and not some very old clunker that was riding on its springs. The freeway into shanghai ,great, even had speed cameras every few km and the trick, or so it would appear, to avoid a ticket is to drive up to them as fast as you can then slam on the brakes for the last few hundred meters then take off again as if the hounds from hell are after you. Entertaining to say the least but I have never been so glad to get out of a car in my life. As we were running late we went straight to the restaurant we were dining in that night as my employer also is a producer of grain fed Tasmanian lamb for the export market and this restaurant is a major customer. The restaurant is called m on the bund and wow what a restaurant one of the best view's ever.

We met with the executive chef, an Aussie bloke by the name of Hamish, and sat out on the terrace overlooking the Bund river and the Pudong business district for a chat and a few more than a few cold beers. It was great talking to Hamish about his time and experiences in Shanghai. Unfortunately my camera had heat stroke and refused to work so no photos. Then it was inside for dinner I started with soft crab in a tomato consomme then the slow baked salt encased leg of lamb, sensational although it was a bit strange sitting at a restaurant in Shanghai eating Tasmanian lamb. The food and service were excellent and this is one of the few times that I have found a restaurant with a stunning view with food to match. Just sitting there looking at the changing view of the sky line, we are talking about buildings that have billboards built into the window glass that are stories high, and the boats with billboards as they went past on the river was an experience I will never forget. So after dinner it was time to go to the hotel in this case we were at the sofitel shanghai pudong and boy what a hotel. By far the best hotel I have ever stayed in everything from the check in service to the rooms fantastic. And as for the night cap in the 46th floor revolving restaurant stunning. Then it was to bed ready for our big morning at the best brunch I have ever been to. All that in my next post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beijing day two and three

Day two started as day one smoggy and hot after an early breakfast it was off to the supplier centre to finalize our orders and sign off on the quotes. After some serious haggling that seems to be a way of life for these traders we settled our purchases and I must say we shopped very well. This took a few hours so then it was off to lunch. Today we had lunch at the largest Chinese restaurant in Asia and this place was huge. It was like three giant malls three stories high all joined under the one roof. As you walk in they have the most amazing wall of fish tanks with their live seafood on display and what a display it was. Somethings even I was hard pressed to identify but very keen to eat. This restaurant has 1000 chefs and cooks, I have enough trouble with my 5. At one setting they can feed 10 000 people, mind blowing. We were shown to our private room and orders promptly taken and frosty cold beers delivered.
one section of the live seafood tanks.
our private room
sweet & sour pork.
house fried rice.
dumplings can not get enough of these little suckers.

Now the food may not look all that exciting but to have it at this restaurant how it is supposed to be cooked lifts the ordinary to the extraordinary. After lunch it was back to the supplier centre to catalogue our purchases and take a lot of photos. After that I was in for a treat I was packed into the car and the driver told to take me to the great wall for the afternoon. Now driving in the city I was getting used to the chaos but driving on the open highways at speed that was another thing all together. Lets just say they approach the concept of driving with the same reckless abandon whether it is city or highway driving. The same abrupt lane changes with no indication, making their own lanes as they go along & dodging all the trucks added an extra little thrill. I got to the wall in one piece and thankfully it was a bit cooler there but just as smoggy as you will see from the photos. I spent a few hours exploring the wall and surrounds and it was awesome. When you are standing next to it and realize how big it is you wonder how did they manage to build it in the first place. The area I went to was very touristy and there were thousands of people there thankfully they all seemed to be walking up the one section of the wall so I went up the other with very few people on it.

On the way to the wall this family group stopped me and I thought they wanted me to take a picture of all of them and I was happy to do this. But no I was the only western person there and I do not think this family get to meet many westerners so it ended up that they wanted to have their photos taken with me, how bizarre must be a once off. But no by the time I had walked to the wall, a walk of about ten minuets, I had been stopped by six other groups to have their photos taken with me as well. They all thought it was great and there was a lot of laughter and smiles and all were curious as to where I came from. This continued while I was walking on the wall and on the walk back to the car. Definitely one of the most bizarre but fun things to happen to me on this trip. Any way back to the wall the shear size of the wall is staggering and it is very well preserved, and I have got to say this no rabbits to be seen anywhere.

the less crowded section of the wall

one of the checkpoints that are on the wall every 500m or so
you can get an idea of how steep it is in some places from this photo.

I had a fantastic time at the wall and all the people I meet there were very friendly. Even though the great wall ended up being on of mans greatest follies it is still one of the wonders of the world. So after the walk back and a few bottles of water it was back to the city and the night market, mystery meat on a stick here I come.
Thankfully I slept on the way back to the city and missed all the near misses on the roads. So I got to the night market around 8.30pm and what a sight it was. One strip on this street went for a few hundred meters with stallholders all lined up with their products and grills, woks and fryers all bidding to get you attention and money. There was everything from snake, grasshoppers, scorpions, assorted bugs, fruit, baby pigeon and a lot of things that I had no idea what they were. So I started at one end and as I wanted to try a lot of different things I would buy one item have a taste or a couple of bites then give it to the people looking in the bins for food. And soon I had a few that just followed me around ready to take off my hands what I did not want. Now for those who say snake tastes like chicken you must be eating some funky chickens. Not the best and not the worst thing I ate that night. The best would be the braised baby pigeon and the worst some kind of  neon jellied mush in a bowl.

a selection of what was on offer incliding the braised baby pigeon.

more of the selection

 What a night what a day after eating my way down the stalls it was time for a cold beer then back to the hotel for a much needed shower then bed ready for our last day in Beijing.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beijing bound

Last week I went on a buying trip to China and Japan for Hadleys new developmet and to see some packaging ideas that we want to use here. I did the usual and checked out the places we were going as much as I could on the net. I knew it was summer over there but nothing could have prepared me for what summer is like in China and Tokyo. It was HOT as you know where, and very humid. Temps in the high 30s and low 40s humidity above 75% for the entire trip. Now I have spent a lot of years in Brisbane and the summers there are no picnic but this was way above anything that I have expereinced or could have imagined. But and this is a big but I had a fantastic time and loved every sweat soaked minute of it. Beijing what can I say it is huge. Population greater than Australia in the one city it just seems to go on forever. The do side of a city this big is the smog and boy was it thick. We did not see the sky or the sun at all during the time we were there. Even when I went to the great wall the smog was bad even that far out of the city. It was big, loud, crowded but exciting. The one thing I did not expect was for Beijing to be so green with trees and parks everywhere. The cars on the roads ,and there are millions of them, seemed quite new with very few old cars spotted. Driving in Beijing well what an experience thankfuly we had a driver. The roads while in very good condition are huge 4 lanes each way. Now the lane markings seem to be a guide only as no one sticks to their lane. Lane changes are done abruptly and usualy with no indication. Everything is done accompanied by a chorus of blaring horns. But for all this chaos I never saw any road rage and only a few minor fender benders. But I am sure that my fingernail imprints will be in that arm rest for a very long time.

The first day we were off to the hotel suppliers and this turned out to be a huge Bunnings like building with two floors of suppliers selling everything from tea spoons to cooking ranges and everything in between. Just the vast amount of equipment was mind blowing. To be able to get everything to fit out a hotel in the one place was fantastic, except for the lack of air conditioning. For lunch that day we went to a local restaurant that our interpreter had been to for a typical Beijing meal. We had fried dumplings, a very spicy but tasty chilli chicken dish, roast duck with pancakes and all the trimmings, stirfried vegies and steamed rice. And a few cold local beers. 

roast duck delicious.

Fried dumplings.

Spicy chilli chicken, just a few chillies.

After lunch it was back to the supplier centre to finalise orders and get quotes ready for the next morning. After we were done we headed to the silk market, this place is knock off heaven. I desperatly needed some shorts and polo tops to cope with the heat. The tip I recieved before I went to the silk market was you need to haggle hard and if you come out with your purchases in a plastic bag then you have paid too much. Well I must suck at haggling as I came out with three plastic bags but I did not care as I got what I needed and was very happy with the price. Then we headed out for dinner to a local restaurant called The Tree that is a local version of a Belgian Beer Cafe serving wood fired pizza instead of mussles. And with a good range of imported beers as well. The pizza was excellent and the frosty cold beer even better and it was a great night.
After dinner it was back to the hotel for a much needed shower and rest to get ready for day two. Day two will be posted in the next couple of days. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


A bit latter than intended but here we go. Sunday 1-8-10 turned into a glorious sunny winters day a perfect day for a drive and a boat trip. We joined around 40 people at the old apple shed on the property owned by Ross and Emma on south Bruny. The lunch was organised by the Rare Food team Ross and Mathew and a perfect winter lunch it was. We were greeted with a glass of excellent warm spiced apple juice as everyone got settled in and got to know each other. The lunch kicked off with some ham hock and white bean terrine also some fantastic toulouse sausages, I hope to see these sausages at the market stall soon, and some wood fired sourdough bread. The main event consisted of slow braised shoulder of Wiltshire Horn lamb that had been braised with wild fennel and potato. Grilled racks and loins from the same lamb. A huge variety of vegetables and some Bruny Island wine. The lunch menu concluded with a Kentish cherry pudding. 

It was a fantastic day with great food and great company in a beautiful location. The day was enhanced by taking a walk, an excellent way to walk off some of that food, through the paddocks with Ross to view his pigs, sheep and chickens. This is one of the main reasons for Mrs Chef and I moving back to Tassie to be able to get involved in this kind of food culture. Just makes me want to get our own land all the sooner.

Above the ham hock & white bean terrine, right the delicious toulouse sausage.

Above- future little terrines and sausages, a noble cause if there ever was one.

I would like to thank Ross, Mathew, Emma & Sadie and all who helped out for sharing their time with us and making it a day to remember looking forward to any future Rare Food events.

Cheese up date our little raw milk gems are coming along nicely with a good growth of white mould on the outside and ripening from the out side in. Alas the black truffle did not make it into the cheese as I could not resist eating it. But again it went to a worthy cause our breakfast on a few occasions.