Dutch wine

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Who knew they made wine in Holland? I did. The very southern part of The Netherlands actually belongs to the Eiffel region, which is also famous for its German white wines. On the Dutch side of the border there are a mere handful of vineyards, no more than ten.

The one that I tried was a white wine, a Riesling, by vineyard Apostelhoeve. The taste was not bad at all, a little dry and a little acidic. It was a refreshing glass of wine that actually went quite well with the rabbit I had for main course. However, I found the smell a bit off-putting, like sweaty armpits.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 6

Finnair business class meal

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This blog entry was inspired by fellow blogger Paul from Paul Sees the World who writes about food – obviously, travel, planes and cats. He recently posted a comparison of first class meals from some of the American flights he’s been on. Just two weeks ago I was on a business class flight myself.

While checking in at the airport for my flight to Amsterdam recently, I overheard the ground staff say there were no available seats. I was starting to panic, but then they told me I would be upgraded to business class. As soon as I sat down I was given a glass of champagne and a menu for lunch. A four course business class lunch, that’s definitely unusual for me.

As a canapé we received a tiny piece of bread with some raw salmon, sour cream and fish roe. The taste was very fresh, but also very mild. I like raw salmon, and I liked this dish, but it could have used some more seasoning. For starters I chose an Asian inspired chicken and coriander soup. In this case the flavors wee much stronger and the coriander especially shone through. It was served with some excellent dark rye bread, but unfortunately the side salad was lacking in both flavor and inspiration. It was just a handful of restaurants chucked on a plate.

Main course was a letdown. I wanted to choose the beef, but they had ran out. That’s a bit strange to me as there aren’t that many business class seats anyway. There was a fish option which didn’t look appealing, so I went for a sweet and sour chicken with rice and mushrooms. I live in China and have eaten some great sweet and sour chicken, but this was not it. The sauce was alright in flavor, but a bit oily and split from reheating. The chicken itself was a bit too soft in texture for me.

For dessert I received two pieces of cheese with some crackers. Can’t go wrong with cheese. They were quite mild in taste, but still good. I paired that with a really nice glass of port wine. All in all I was happy with what I got. Great wine, great bread and good soup and chees. However I was expecting just a bit more for main course from a business class seat.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Yak milk tea

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Many people around the world drink their tea with milk. The British famously do so, and the milk tea from Hong Kong is almost equally as famous. As a kid I would often put some milk in my tea too, but the Tibetans in my area take it to a whole new level. They don’t put milk in their tea, they put tea in their milk.

After a visit to the grasslands of Xiahe in the Tibetan Plateau, I stopped at a local restaurant for a short break. I asked for some yak tea, thinking I could try the famous yak butter tea. Instead they went out and came back with a bottle of yak milk. They poured the contents in a kettle and added some tea leaves.

I’m not the biggest fan of milk, but I can drink it if I have too. Unfortunately they kettle boiled over and the milk was burnt. All I could taste was burnt milk. I don’t think yak milk is supposed to taste like that, so I might have to try it again another time.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 4

Ginger cola

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I’m addicted to Coke. Coca Cola that is. I would drink it all day long, if it wasn’t so socially awkward to drink it in the morning. I mostly drink Coke Zero, as they don’t sell Diet Coke around here. Recently I found some ginger flavored Coco Call in a supermarket in Shanghai, and of course I had to explore.

I like ginger a lot, it lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes, and a ginger beer can be very refreshing. I thought ginger cola would be a more refreshing version of regular cola, like for instance Coke with lemon.

Unfortunately the flavor of ginger didn’t come through very strongly. It was there, in a savory medicinal way, but it was very diluted. The trace of ginger that I picked up was nice, but I just wished it could have been more eminent.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Coconut water espresso

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The advertisement for the coconut water espresso at Starbucks in China certainly looked appealing. There was a clear layer of juice on the bottom with a rich coffee floating on top. Unlike many other ads, the coffee actually looked like the picture. That was a promising start.

The first sip was equally promising, as the straw sucks up the sweet coconut water, and then hits the bitter coffee. It made for a nice combination. After a while though, the two layers get muddled up and you are left with what in essence is a sweetened coffee. It tasted great at first, and pretty nice towards the end, so all in all not a bad score.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 8

Yak butter tea

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When you think of Tibetan food, often the first thing that comes to mind is yak butter tea. As Tibetans live at a high altitude, they don’t have access to a lot of natural resources. Most of their diet relies on yak and barley. The food is often quite stodgy and fatty because the locals need to keep their energy levels up to cope with their surroundings.

I recently visited the Tibetan town of Xiahe on the outer stretches of the Tibetan Plateau. Naturally I tried some local dishes, including a mug of yak butter tea. To make yak butter tea a local black tea is mixed with yak butter and a pinch of salt. The result is somewhat of a buttery popcorn flavored drink. I expected it to be very pungent and strong, but in fact it was very subtle and tasted like any regular cow butter.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 6

Luwak Coffee

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Luwak coffee is one of the world’s more expensive delacies with one kilo costing up to $700. It’s also known as cat-poo coffee because of the way it’s made. The fresh coffee berries are eaten by Asian palm civets. After it has been digested farmers pick out the berries and roast them like any normal coffee. After a thorough cleaning, of course.

I’m not a big fan of coffee, but during my recent trip to Bali, I came across a place where you could sample some of their coffee, including luwak coffee. I know this is a tourist place, and the beans here are farmed, and not from the wild, but it was a good opportunity for me to try without a heft investment.

Some people say it’s just a novelty item, and there is no great taste, but I disagree. I really felt the coffee was incredibly smooth, not bitter at all. I didn’t even need to add any cream or sugar, it was great on its own.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 10

Lobster bisque bloody Mary

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A few months ago I went on a weekend trip to Dubai, a shopper’s delight where everything’s made of gold. That last is certainly true for “Gold on 27”, the penthouse bar on the 27th floor of the infamous Burj al Arab hotel. The walls, furniture and decorations are bedecked in gold.

The cocktail list is almost as outrageous as the décor. You can order cocktails with truffle, foie gras or even charcoal. I went for the bloody Mary made with lobster bisque. This classic cocktail is usually made with tomato juice, but the mixologists of the Burj al Arab have replaced this with a house made lobster bisque. As if that wasn’t decadent enough, it’s served with a molecular yogurt sphere.

The cocktail was very well crafted indeed. For that price it better be, but of course you pay for your surroundings too. It had a strong savory taste that definitely reminds of a bloody Mary, while the addition of a seafood broth gives it a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. If I hadn’t known it contained lobster, I probably wouldn’t have guessed.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Sea buckthorn juice

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Sea buckthorn is a fruit that grows in Europe, even in my own country, and yet I had never heard of it until I saw bottles of its juice here in Chinese supermarkets. That’s probably because, at least according to Wikipedia, the fruit is very acidic and unpleasant to eat.

They’re also difficult to harvest due to the abundance of thorns on the plants. You can, however, use the fruits to make juice or jams if you just add enough sugar. That’s how the once sour, almost inedible berry found its way to my kitchen.

The juice still had to touch of sourness, which reminded me of a green apple, but there was also a sweetness that I would swear resembles pineapple. It was nice to find multiple layers of flavor in the juice of only one fruit. That’s something you normally only find in a blend of juices. It’s good for you too, as it’s high in vitamin C.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 9