Saturday, June 26, 2010

Anniversary 2010

This post originally took place on June 18-23, 2010.

Our car broke down while in the Berkshires for our fifth wedding anniversary. We were on our way to the summit of Mount Greylock.

We were stuck in North Adams for a few days while the mechanic was working his magic. We made the most of it by hiking to the Cascades waterfalls.

A simple walk from the Holiday Inn, North Adams. It was the first time either of us had seen the falls, courtesy of a broken alternator. Our mechanic said that he used to go fishing here as a kid.

Forced to extend our vacation. It was like a second honeymoon.

I proposed at the top of these steps.

We eventually got back the car and made a safe return trip. In the meantime, we did some hiking on the Appalachian Trail, saw a Sol Lewitt show at Mass MoCA, ate, and just relaxed.

A list of places where we ate, almost of them are old favorites from our college days.

Spirit Shop & Deli Station
280 Cole Ave
Williamstown, MA 01267
(413) 458-5511

Our primary source for Berkshire Brewing Company Beer (best beer ever) which we substituted for champagne on this trip.

Super Stop and Shop
876 State Road
North Adams, MA 01247
(413) 664-8100

Mount Greylock in the background. This was our supermarket for 4 years.

412 Main St
Williamstown, MA 01267
(413) 458-5750

The local Chinese/Korean/Japanese restaurant. Mabel was feeling especially nostalgic for the place.

Pappa Charlies
28 Spring St
Williamstown, MA 01267
(413) 458-5969

The local deli with named sandwiches. The Maria Tucci--turkey, avocado, and sprouts--is one of my favorite sandwiches here.

777 Cold Spring Road (Routes 7&2)
Williamstown, MA 01267

A really good American restaurant in its third incarnation. Took over the restaurant which took over the restaurant where we had our wedding reception.

Blue Benn Diner
102 Hunt St (314 North St) (Route 7)
Bennington, VT 05201

A cute diner in Bennington, VT. The line for a booth can be ridiculous. We sat at the counter. Gwyneth is known to eat here with her mom at times. No sightings on this trip.

Hot Tomatoes
100 Water St, Route 43
Williamstown, MA 01267

I love this pizza. I didn't know how good I had it until after I left college. We told them our sob story and convinced them to deliver to our hotel in North Adams.

20 Marshall St
North Adams, MA 01247

Mabel loves this place. The perfect coffee shop. I wish there were a place like it in New York City.

Ye Old Forge
125 North Main St
Lanesboro, Massachusetts, 01237

Best wings in Western Massachusetts. Awesome beer selection. Sat on their porch overlooking the hills. You can obtain a card that gets stamped everytime you drink one of their beers (it has to be a different beer each time). When you fill the card, you get a stein. If you fill out a certain number of cards, rumor has it that you get your own stool. If someone is sitting on it, you can tell them to get off because it is your stool.

Sushi Thai Garden
27 Spring St
Williamstown, MA

Mabel and I overdosed on this place while we were in college. They keep expanding into adjacent lots and recently added the "Sushi" to their name so they seem to be doing well.

Freightyard Pub
1 Furnace St
North Adams, MA 01247

Outdoor seating, saw a freight train go by and got lots of mosquito bites. Service is pretty awful, but the only decent place in town open on a Monday night.

Bascom Lodge
Summit of Mount Greylock, MA

Working on their liquor license. There was a fridge full of Berkshire Brewing Company beer literally under lock and key, just waiting for their license to go through. Had a surprisingly satisfying lunch of grilled cheese and BLTs here on our hike. The guy in the kitchen really knew what he was doing, and we were really hungry.

460 Main St
Williamstown, MA 01267

Never came here together while in college, but this is a good spot. The old founder was related to Pappa Charlie. Good homecooking, Greek and Italian.

245 State Rd
North Adams, MA 01247

Very unfriendly the night we stopped by. Our wedding photographer uses this place as a meeting spot for his customers. I have good childhood memories of their lime ice cream which rarely shows up (none on this trip).

Friday, June 25, 2010


This post took place on May 25 and June 13, 2010.

We started our trip with bibimbap

and we ended with bibimbap.

The first meal was in the food court of Incheon Airport and the last one was on the flight back home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hwangjang Market and naengmyeon

This post took place on June 13, 2010.

On our last day in Korea we went to Hwangjang market early in the morning before checking out.

We were looking for something to eat.

Luckily there were a few bindaeduk places open for business. This one stone ground their mung beans on the premises.

We watched the cook fry the pancakes in gobs of oil.

The bindaeduk was great. We all liked the stone ground texture. It was all held together with bean sprouts.

Dad’s friend picked us up in his car and we stopped by this naengmyun place on the way to the airport.

It was in a small enclave of naengmyeon places that popped up about the time of the Korean War. Naengmyeon was unheard of in Seoul until refugees from Hamhung brought it to the city. Dad found out on the trip that his mom’s business used to supply the naengmyeon shops in the Hamhung region.

The restaurant was really crowded and really good. They gave us a kettle of warm beef stock to pour into cups and drink as water.

The broth was really flavorful. The naengmyeon was fantastic, a nice final meal in Korea.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Haejangguk and cod stew

This post took place on June 12, 2010.

The second to last day of our trip I ran into very challenging Korean food.

That's sunji haejangguk. It's supposed to be good for a hangover. I was getting over a mild stomach bug, so I was hoping it could help with that too.

The soup had a really nice, rich beef stock. But it also had blood clot, tripe, and who-knows-what-else. I had the most trouble with the blood clot. I don't like the texture of blood clot, and there was this really large one in there with suspended bubbles and a surface suggestive of heart trabeculae. I was the only one at the table who didn't eat everything.

Oh, that was for breakfast.

For lunch, we went to a place specializing in cod stew. Parts of the stew were good, but there were also these unknown squiggly pieces of cod.

My dad said they were a delicacy and my mom couldn't provide a translation other than saying that they were only found in male cod. They had this weird texture and were pretty bland. Not easy to eat.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Korean BBQ

This post took place on June 8, 2010.

I got to visit the pottery museums and shops in Icheon and Gwangju and saw a couple huge traditional style wood fire kilns.

At the end of that day, we ate Korean barbecue.

This was the only time we had BBQ on the trip, and it was really good. I'd heard the complaint that beef in Korea is so much more expensive than in the US, and it's true but not in the way I thought it would be.

An order of shoulder meat at this restaurant was 60,000 W, about $50.

That's a lot compared to $20-$30 for an order in a US Korean restaurant, but the beef was so much better. It tasted dry aged and was really well marbled. A better comparison would be to a good American steakhouse where steak for two is usually at least $60. In both countries you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jagalchi market, outdoors

This post took place on June 7, 2010 in Busan.

I finally googled mungae. It's Korean for sea squirt.

We had to pass back through Busan to get from Geojedo to Seoul, and we decided to eat at the fish market again.

Still full from eating mungae bibimbap, we took time to walk through the outdoor markets.

Mom and dad were skeptical of the value of the indoor market and really wanted to eat at an outdoor place, so we did. I picked the place that had the healthiest-looking nakji, aka baby octopus.

We ordered nakji, mungae, and flounder. I was really looking forward to the nakji.

It was still wriggling around on the plate.

It tasted super fresh and wasn't as chewy as I thought it would be. You dip it in a sesame oil-salt mix. After a while the octopus stops wriggling, until you touch it. There seems to be some sort of reflex action going on.

I was a bit sick of mungae, but the stuff from this place was really good.

They were turning the mungae over in the tank and you could see them squirting water. Sea squirts squirting water equals live sea squirts. These were the freshest mungae we ate on the trip. I didn't even notice that metallic, iodine tang. It was just very nice to eat.

The flounder was a treat.

And like everything else, it went from live to our plates in less than 5 minutes.

Mungae bibimbap

This post took place on June 7, 2010.

After seeing the POW museum on Geojedo, we ate at a mungae bibimbap place. The mungae was basically in terrine form.

And then you mix it up with rice.

It all really tasted like mungae: pretty intense. I definitely wouldn't be able to eat this everyday. There were lots of free extras: a complimentary fish soup with each order which would have made a nice lunch just on its own, lots of banchan, and a bowl of browned rice water.

Beef head soup at Jin Young Restaurant

This post took place on June 6 and 7, 2010.

We took a day to travel from Seoul to Geoje island by train and boat. When we got in we were hungry. The town by the ferry station was packed with small restaurants, and my mom picked out a 6 table restaurant based on feel and the fact that there were 2 groups there (as opposed to none for the majority of the places).

People were eating jeongol, and she picked out beef head jeongol which none of us had seen on a menu before. It was awesome. It was like sulungtang except with better meat.

I think they used a bone marrow stock, and there was a lot of cartilagenous stuff in the meat. I love it. No brains as far as I could tell.

The banchan was really good too. Really good anchovy preparation and they had this great marinated red pepper oyster dish.

We liked the place so much that we returned the next morning for breakfast. They're a 24 hour place. In the light of day, we noticed that the place is named after me, Jin Young, my Korean name.

We got soon dobu which surprisingly came out in a communal pot. For banchan there was this lotus root which was really good, those great anchovies, and pieces of fish cake. I realized one of the things that made all of them so great was an al dente quality. It's something I hadn't thought about in Korean food but it makes a huge difference.

A bunch of BP workers wearing orange jumpsuits came in for their end-of-shift meal.

The restaurant workers sat down to eat with them like old friends. Another man sat at the table next to us and ate doenjang jjigae while going through receipts from overnight.

Namdaemun Market

This post took place on June 5, 2010.

After a day at Pamunjun, we went to Namdaemun market in Seoul to eat and do a little shopping.

There were these food tents all over the place with proprietors saying "Sit down! (ahn ja say yo)," with this charming mixture of plaintive- and imperative-ness. Where we ate, the person was running the tent alone, though she said that her husband was a phone call away.

The food was decent, but this is very much more like drinking and post drinking food, not that there's anything wrong with that. Lots of spiciness to make you drink more. We went through her last bottle of makgeolli so she ran to the store to get us a second one.

We got a spicy squid dish, some conch (which I'm going to finally say I don't like in general), and these clams

which were tasty. By the end of the meal we were all like best friends.

For desert we split a huge red bean bun at a different stand.

They were giving out free samples and it cost only 1,000 W.

They also had naengmyun on the menu. A tiny dumpling place that also serves naengmyun? It's so implausible that they would have good naengmyun that maybe they have the best naengmyun. But alas it was not good. I was glad to get some perspective. Not everything in Korea is good eats.


This post took place on June 5, 2010 in Seoul.

We walked by a stand by the burnt down Namdaemun (southern gate) where I did a double take of an old deaf man rolling dough and putting it into a hot press. I went back with my mom to get fresh, hot hodduk filled with cinnamon sugar.

It was was good as it sounds.

Raw crab from the Yellow Sea

This post took place on June 4 and 8, 2010.

We had Baekryundo crabs at my dad's friend's house in Seoul.

These are caught in the Yellow Sea which is the sea between Korea and China. They are served in a simple sauce of soy sauce and red pepper flakes and paste.

I didn't realize that they were uncooked until I'd eaten half of one, but once I figured it out they tasted awesome. The crab tastes like super fresh sea urchin, but better and bigger portions.

I must have seem prety excited about them because dad's friend served the crabs to us again a few days later, for breakfast. Even better.

These crabs seem very similar to blue crabs back in the US. Next time I see live crabs for sale, I'm going to give this recipe a try.

Monday, June 14, 2010

North Korean food products

This post took place on June 4 and 5, 2010.

Just got back to the US last night.

We visited the DMZ twice. Once on June 4 in Goseong on the eastern shore where you could get a sense of what a vast nature reserve the place has become

Looking into North Korea

and the next day in Pamunjun where you get a sense of both the seriousness of the division and how important the theater of it all is.

South Korean soldiers facing North Korea

At both sites you could buy North Korean food products, as a courtesy for tourists.

It's not possible for the South to import these directly; they are imported from North Korea to China, then South Korea. It might have been a fun thing to try North Korean liquor, but it doesn't seem conscionable to buy it from a country with widespread malnourishment.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dried Whiting

This post took place on June 4, 2010.

The final day of our east coast tour (and all the tours), we woke up in Sokcho to see the sun rise. We all barely missed it. But we got to walk around by the water and see some fishing boats come in.

It was octopus season.

I got to see some women divers on their way out.

I didn't know there were women divers outside of Jejudo.

This region is known for dried whiting, and today I had dried whiting for breakfast and lunch. The American style breakfast at the hotel looked unappealing, so I opted for the Korean breakfast instead.

The highlight was the Congnalmul (bean sprout) soup with a wonderful dried whiting and mushroom broth. I was one of the best things I've tasted in Korea.

For lunch we had dried whiting at a restaurant in the countryside east of Seoul. They were making kim chi outside the front door.

The roasted dried whiting was fantastic.

It is like a Korean version of bacalao and came out on a hot cast iron plate. Mom says the ingredients included red pepper paste, lots of sugar, and lots of seasame oil.

A good third of our group, which was under 25, didn't care for it. One of them was even a cook. A bit sad, but that meant more for the rest of us. The whole meal felt like it was put together with so much care, and the waitress really wanted us to like the meal. The banchan was good. Everything tasted fresh and although this was not ambitious food, it had a refinement to it. There was a subtle dried whiting soup made with rice water. And I had channangmul, a Korean herb, for the first time; it was served steamed by itself as banchan and had a great fresh edge.

We finished our meal with the customary coffee from an instant coffee machine.

This was one of the best meals of the trip.