Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade Absolut Anise - check!

Operation Absolut Anise was a success, after a week and a half of sitting, it is passable as pastis, though not quite as milky colored when water is added.

The process was fairly simple and hands off, and I am pleasantly surprised by the results.

Hopefully, in another week, my homemade pastis (which is illegal in France, apparently) will be able to transport my tastebuds back to Marseille.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Absolut Anise

Day Nine?? Smells wonderful. Tomorrow will be another test sip.
Day Six
Day Five
Day Four
Day Three
Day Two
Day One
The beginning of homemade pastis (or maybe just anise infused vodka). 

Buy a bottle of vodka. 
Crush some anise seed. 
Put crushed anise seed in bottle.
Let sit for at least a week.

If you would like a little more background on "Why?!" please read my post: Pastis and Rosé.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pastis and Rosé

During my two week escape to Marseille in June, I fell in love with pastis and rosé. Pastis is a Marseillaise aperitif that tastes like anise. Rosé is a pink colored wine and is a lovely alternative to a red wine in the summer because you drink it chilled or on ice. If you like wine, you will probably like rosé, especially if it comes from Marseille. If you like black licorice, you will probably like pastis. Not only does pastis taste good, as an aperitif, it boasts the ability to aid digestion. Best consumed before eating a big meal, with a few savory snacks, pastis gets things going, and rosé keeps it going.

Thus when I returned to Korea, from my dream in the south of France, I had in tow a bottle of pastis, two bottles of rosé and two bottles of red wine, along with cheese, of course!

The wine was gone in less than two weeks. I kept two bottles of wine, one rosé and one red, at home for my own consumption, and I took two bottles, one rosé and one red, to school to share with my Korean coworkers. I had promised them wine as a thank you, and I delivered.

Little did I know, most Koreans do not like real, good wine. They want sweet wine. So their first response to both bottles of wine was a funny look on their faces and a comment about how dry and not sweet it was. I tried to accept their tastes calmly and talk to them about what I knew about wines, but I almost freaked out when one of my coworkers said, "This would be better with cider."

Cider is basically a lemon-lime type soda.

That was the end of sharing things that I truly love with my coworkers.

The cheese was gone in a few weeks. I did not share it with my coworkers, even though it went fabulously with the wine, mainly because they were stronger cheeses and Korean taste is accustomed to Kraft Singles style cheese.

The pastis I kept to myself, and I tried to make it last as long as possible. Slowly but surely, my attempt to conserve this lovely aperitif turned into a nightly ritual. My schedule did not allow for a leisurely two or three hour French lunch in the middle of the day, so I settled on a bit of popcorn and pastis while winding down before bed.

My empty bottle of pastis

After almost two months of nursing the bottle of pastis, I had finished it. It was a sad day, and I am convinced that my digestive tract is still trying to survive without it. So, while in Seoul, when we found a French restaurant, my first question to the waiter was ... "Do you have pastis?"

And they did.

While the aperitif part of our meal was a bit rushed, I still enjoyed the pastis. A taste of heaven.

I am now on the hunt for a bottle of Marseillaise pastis to share with my family when I return to the States. While I'm not certain I will be able to find it here in Korea, I am crossing my fingers that somehow, somewhere, I can at least order it on the internet in America.

The rest of my dream will just have to wait until January.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seoul is to Korea as ... ______ is to ______

... Moscow is to Russia.
... Boise is to Idaho.

After eleven months in Korea, I finally made it to Seoul. It's not really Korea. People speak English. There's a huge variety of foreign food, not just the regular pasta and waffles. And the number of foreigners is astounding.

Before visiting, I was skeptical. I knew it would be a huge city, with lots of people, and whenever I thought of this in comparison to the lovely, closer option of Busan, I ALWAYS opted for the beach. So, when I finally made it to Seoul, I was pleasantly surprised.

Ulsan, marked in the white circle, is where I am located. Busan (the blue circle) is the second largest city in South Korea and boasts a few lovely beaches. Seoul (the yellow star) is "really" far away.

I had low expectations for Seoul. I thought of a crowded, overpopulated mess of people. I lived in Moscow for nearly two years. I knew what a city was like. But as with all things in life, you do not really know it until you try it.

One of the best discoveries in Seoul, was a design museum / cafe combination in Hongdae. While it can be a bit tricky to find the first time, it is well worth the journey. aA Cafe is a simple, modernist style building full of custom furniture and designed like an old warehouse, brewery, or art school. The large windows let in as much light as possible, and the feeling of the exterior and interior made me think of Frank Lloyd Wright's work and a smattering of other modernist architecture and interior design that I was briefly exposed to at University.

Sitting in aA Cafe

Unlike (or the same as) similar places in America, I do not think this place was EVER anything other than what it is now, but that does not lessen it's charm or character. The ambiance is created by lofty ceilings, huge hanging lights, brick walls, and mismatch furniture. The knowledge that there is a museum directly underneath the cafe, which houses a variety of "antiques" and modern creations, and the assumption that there is a studio above the cafe where people create beautiful, yet simple, furniture contribute to the illusion that Korea, full of it's nearly formulaic glitter and cuteness, has been left far behind.

Part of the museum ... no sitting here.

Rivaling the discovery of aA Cafe, away from the noise and chaos of the city, the Han River provides a calm that cannot be found in the overcrowded shopping districts. The old river stretches off into the distance and allows for windsurfers, jet skiers, and sail boaters to enjoy a lovely Sunday afternoon. A paved path runs along the river and connects the various districts of Seoul in a non commercial space. Young and old, families, couples, and a variety of others utilize this path. As I walked along the river near Itaewon toward the 63 Building, enjoying my solitude and the peace and quiet, a realization dawned. Unlike Ulsan's Taewha River path, the path along the Han lacks speakers. There is NO K-Pop blaring. There is NO classical music. There is absolutely NO manufactured, constant sound, and the effect is refreshing. In the stretches of path away from bridges, the main sounds that could be heard were the river, crickets, and cars and trains in the distance.

Before arriving in Seoul, my expectations were low if not nonexistent. I knew it would be a city. I knew it would be different from Ulsan because there would be a variety of foreign food, though I had no idea the extent of that variety - Itaewon boasts everything from Mexican to Thai to French to Arabic and more. I knew at times I would feel claustrophobic because of the shear number of people, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. A lovely cosmopolitan change from the more conservative and isolated areas of Korea, Seoul has character, and I would highly recommend it, in small doses, for anyone living in Korea.