Sips and bites: Palms LA, Copper, Caravan, Godfather, Migas, Jing-A & more

palms la chicken taco beijing china.jpg

I posted this long review of the tasty eats and drinks sold at Jue Market last Sunday, but the following news got a bit lost in all that nom-nom-noming, as one friend puts it, so I’ll quickly review it here:

  • Palms LA: A branch of this Mexican-Korean restaurant will soon open in the San Yuan Li area. If memory serves, it will be a two-floor affair, with the upper deck ideal for events and the lower able to seat forty people. Initial thought? Chicken tacos!

  • Traitor Zhou’s: This project brings together Okra Works, Migas and Willow Farm, and should have its first shop open, in Sanlitun, in a month or so. Nice to see a good range of Traitor Zhou’s offerings at Jue Market, including bagels, doughnuts, cream cheese, sausages, cured meats, sangria and infused shoju,

  • The Meatball Company: There is lots of buzz about these meatballs, available only via delivery thus far. Look for these guys to establish an outpost by 4corners in the Gulou area, raise the meatball options to ten and also serve subs.

Meanwhile, Temple Restaurant Beijing has opened event space Copper about 100 meters away and even deeper in the hutongs. The venue can handle 200 people standing or 100 seated for a meal. It will also be home to the growing stock of wine for the TRB delivery program. (This space has come a long way since last September when it was just an empty shell that we used to pre-taste for the Ningxia Wine Challenge.)

Restaurant and bar Caravan, sibling to Beixinqiao area rum and Moroccan food joint Cuju, is set to officially open on Friday at 9:30 PM after a two-month test drive. Drink deals include rmb15 wine and gin tonics and rmb10 Beijing draft. You’ll find it across from the southwest corner of the Ritan Park block, in the same building that housed Casa Brasil, Sequoia Cafe, Tim’s Texas Bar-B-Q and, when I arrived in Beijing, John Bull Pub.

Also in that same building, The Godfather officially opened last week and should be on the radar of those in search of Western comfort food. (At least a half-dozen people have already recommended the fish and chips to me). Word is this place by Louis and Heather Jacquot also aims to make and sell its own meat pies and sausages.

Migas starts its Saturday brunch this weekend. If a recent taste test led by chef Aitor Olebagoya is any indication– I’ll have a post shortly — this place is going to be a big winner.

Finally, look for Jing-A to make what I’ll simply call a “qu brew“. The guys will use qu, the fermentation agent for baijiu, to make a beer, a process that co-owners Alex Acker and Kristian Li toyed with last year. It’ll be part of World Baijiu Day this August, a new project that launched last week. More details here.

Treasure island: Takeaway deal on Sardinian wines at LM Plus

lm plus wines of sardinia including argiolas cantina santadi sella mosca (3)

The LM Plus restaurants in Central Park and Park Avenue not only have a half-price takeaway bottle deal but also the best lineup of Sardinian wines I have seen in Beijing, including from well-regarded producers like Cantina di Santadi and Argiolas. In fact, owner Massimo Masili works directly with Argiolas to make his house wines.

The white is made with vermentino grapes while the red is a blend of grapes locally known as Cannonau, Monica and Bovale Sardo — Cannonau goes elsewhere by the name Grenache, among others. I tried the latter at the former Upper East Side outlet with the pizza tonno and found the combo so tasty I downed a whole bottle.

The wine menu includes dozens of other options, from countries the world over, all at 50 percent off for takeaway. The only exceptions are a small number of expensive / rare wines.

You can find LM Plus at number 103 in Building 6 at Central Park and 1F of the Park Avenue Club House.

lm plus wines of sardinia including argiolas cantina santadi sella mosca

Beijing Irish pub ideas: You say O’Shea’s, I say O’Spays, O’Haze and O’Horseplays

It's a Paddy O'Haze day!
It’s a Paddy O’Haze day!

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A key PR strategy of Paddy O’Shea’s is to attach an “O” and an apostrophe to any given event. Thus, ladies night becomes “Paddy O’Ladies“, a mustache appreciation event becomes “Paddy O’Staches“, and so on. My good memories of this place inspired me to create ten possible promotions to help maintain it as the premier Irish sports bar in our fair city. In the interest of conformity, I’ve focused on those that rhyme with “Shea’s” or start with “s”.

Paddy O’Haze: When the pollution index tops 250, happy hour is extended to compensate for your physical discomfort. The only black lung you’ll get is if you swallow your Guinness the wrong way, ha ha ha ha!

Paddy O’Praise: Torn between worship of deity and drink? Join Paddy’s for Sunday morning services that feature a unique consecration wine — known to some as Jameson — at half-price.

Paddy O’Space Pants: This intense eight-hour pick-up line session teaches how to execute intros such as, “You must be wearing space pants because your ass is out of this world”, “I’d like to rearrange the alphabet so that ‘u’ and ‘i’ are closer together” and “Excuse me, do you realize my shirt is made out of boyfriend / girlfriend material?” The afternoon starts with a one-hour lecture, followed by a panel discussion, breakout sessions and role-playing.

Paddy O’Spays: Buy a pint of Guinness and get your pet neutered for free. Includes a free bowl of Irish stew to raise your tiny friend’s spirits.

Paddy O’Clay’s: Nothing is more relaxing or rewarding that making your own pottery. At this monthly event, learn how to handcraft an artisanal drinking vessel that will then be secured by the barkeep for your personal use during visits to this fine establishment.

Paddy O’Sheeps: Celebrate Year of the Goat / Ram / Sheep with our Irish lamb stew.

Paddy O’Shares: Hugs, hugs and more hugs. Also, can you hug a hug? Paddy’s will show you how!

Paddy O’Horseplay: Join this event for all manner of pranks, including, but not necessarily limited to, wet willies, atomic wedgies, purple nurples, noogies, pink bellies and towel snaps. Note: All attendees must sign a disclaimer.

Paddy O’Rebecca de Mornay’s: Experience an evening dedicated to the films of this fine actress, including Risky Business, Runaway Train and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. The festivities will include a quiz, with brain-teasers such as “What language other than English does she speak fluently?” (German), “What famous singer was she engaged to?” (Leonard Cohen) and “How tall, to the nearest millimeter, is she?” (166).

Paddy O’Lanterns: For Kim Mitchell fans. Note: Only fans of 1980s Canadian pop music are likely to attend.

Finally, today is St. Patrick’s Day, so get yourself over to Paddy O’Shea’s for all kinds of shenanigans, including drink deals, giveaways, nine hours of Irish music videos and a barbecue — wear green and get a free drink. More details, including on St. Patrick’s Day activities at The Irish Volunteer and The Local, here.

(Check out new project World Baijiu Day and sibling blog Grape Wall of China.)

You don't want to miss Paddy O'Clay's.
You don’t want to miss Paddy O’Clay’s.

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Get crafty: Ten things drunk or eaten at Jue Market 2015

jue market 2015 with traitor zhou's palms la jing a cuju rager pie meatball company and more beijing china.jpg

This review is being sent from the spiritual world as I remain in a food coma following the Jue Market yesterday. The wonders of technology, and specifically a program called telAPPathic, allows me to share these humble opinions whilst my corporeal self remains prone.

Note: This year’s Jue Market included over a dozen food and beverage vendors. I focused on those I have never or rarely tried and thus skipped regulars like Two Guys and a Pie, Andy’s Craft Sausages et al. I also skipped Big Bear Cookies, Sweet Tooth et al, as I’m not a big dessert guy, and Shangri-La Coffee, as I have a dozen bags of their beans at home.

1. Palms LA: ‘Mexican Coffee’ (元10)

The entry under “evil” in my personal dictionary includes a photo of a Nescafe three-in-one coffee package, a product that includes a mix of coffee, sugar and powdered creamer and that when combined with hot water serves solely to insult one’s taste buds. I loathe it not only because the quality is poor but also because I dislike sweetener in my coffee. This ‘Mexican Coffee’, which includes molasses, cinnamon and star anise, is now the exception to the rule. After a sip or two to adjust to the sweetness, I found it a pleasant early afternoon pick-me-up.

2. Palms LA: Tacos (元25)

I tried one each of the kalbi and chicken tacos. There is a lot of flavor goodness inside the shells, from seasoned meat to fresh toppings to tangy sauce. I enjoyed the kalbi taco, even if the meat was a bit dry, but my vote goes to the chicken taco, where the mix of spices, ingredients and sauce married perfectly with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and ensured flavor explosions from start to finish. If I could redo the Jue Market, I would buy four, or maybe six, or those chicken tacos.

Note: Look for Palms LA to open a second outlet within the next month in the San Yuan Li area.

3. Traitor’s Zhou’s: Bagels (元40 for three)

I don’t know the term for how much a given food returns to its original shape after being pressed — bounce back? — but these bagels positively display that quality. If you sat on a Traitor Zhou’s bagel the size of a chair, you would comfortably sink a quarter of the way down and then, when you got up, watch it slowly return to shape.

Anyway, these bagels have a firm crust and chewy interior, and offer a pleasant workout for your masticatory muscles. I had the nori bagel with plum cream cheese and it was delicious. (There were other toppings available, including a couple of meat options, and people raved about them.) If I might quibble, I’d say a crispier crust would provide even more textural delight.

Anyway, I ate one and brought two home, along with the chorizo and plain cream cheeses, to snack on today. In fact, one of those bagels is on my desk right now, enticing me with its slightly-blistered golden-brown surface.

Note: Traitor Zhou’s, which teams Okra Works, Migas and Willow Farm, should have its first shop open in a month or so.

4. The Meatball Company: Chicken Balls (元40)

There is a lot of buzz about these guys and their mysterious ways. Well, ways that are mysterious if you don’t know how to use weixin and get their meatballs and sides like mac ‘n’ cheese delivered to your office or home.

On this day they stuck to chicken meatballs and a range of sauces. The meatballs are far more delicate than I expected. They are light, tender and almost flaky in the way they come apart. The accompanying tomato sauce was fresh as a spring day. And the small slice of bread beside it, well, not so good. It was dry and bland. My conspiracy theory: it served solely to raise the profile of the other items.

By the way, The Meatball Company is a candidate for this year’s Jue Market “Good Samaritan Award” given it shared a good deal of leftovers with the stragglers, both in terms of  vendors and customers, as Jue Market wrapped up.

Note: Word is The Meatball Company will open a store in a few weeks near 4corners in the Gulou area, bump its meatball menu up to ten or so options, and also offer subs.

5 Cuju: Merguez Sausage (元30)

There is lots going on with this sausage sandwich. Lots of spice flavors in the meat, lots of good interplay between the mustard and fried onions, and lots of bread. I’d say there is too much of the latter, with the protein-to-carbs ratio a bit out of whack.

If I had had more to drink — and I blame my relative sobriety on Great Leap not showing up this year and thus cutting the number of craft brew booths in half –those extra carbs might well have been in order. As it was, I found they masked the sausage flavor a.k.a. the star of the sandwich. It was kind of like having Dusan Tadic captain your Premier League fantasy team when you have Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Ageurro or Harry Kane as options. Let the Sanchez sausage loose! (Sorry, I am in the Paddy O’Shea’s league this year and just picked this week’s lineup.)

Anyway, if I could redo Jue, I would either 1) get the sausage on its own, the mustard and onions on the side, and nibble on that bread throughout the day or 2) double dog it and pair two sausages with the bread. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d go for the second option.

6. Jing-A: Bingtanghulu Beer (元35 x 4 = 元140)

My initial reaction to the idea of using candy-coated hawthorne berries as the inspiration for a beer was to roll my eyes until they flew out of my skull, both because that’s how pretentious this brew sounds and because I like to live on the edge. Turns out this is nicely balanced beer with a slight fruity sweetness. It’s a fun and frolicking session-y spring beer, a beer that several Jing-A people said they expect to refine and better, a beer that made the Harmonious Pale Ale seem like a hop bomb in contrast.

7. Traitor Zhou’s: Shoju and Sangria (free taste via a friend)

Good and good.

8. Rager Pie: Burrito Pie (元35)

I eyeballed the burrito pie all afternoon, an easy task given how unmistakable it was with those nacho chips jutting from a chili base. I eyeballed it and waited until the bagels and tacos and sausages and meatballs settled in my stomach and I was ready to make my move. Then — I’m sure you can guess the next part — I made my move. Okay, here are three points about the burrito pie.

One, the ingredients are good. The chili is hearty and spicy. Yes, it’s hot, but it’s a restrained heat, like a controlled grass fire. Or something that’s a better analogy.

Two, the crust doesn’t work for me. It’s whole wheat! It reminds me of what I’d eat if I were trying to be healthy, with a dusty goodness that seemed to be emitting minerals and vitamins by the nanosecond. When I’m eating spicy-as-a-grass-controlled fire nacho-chip-topped chili, that’s not what I want. Could I get used to it? I’m not sure, although I did get used to the Mexican coffee pretty quick.

Three, the owner seemed genuinely interested in customer feedback, which is always a good sign. I will try more Rager pies soon, including the chicken pot pie.

Note: Rager Pie was paired with Gospel Coffee Roasters, which had some kind of mini lab setup, complete with an instant read thermometer to check water temperature and a digital weight scale to ensure proper weight of the final product. This place gets my vote for best-smelling coffee of all Jue Market time.

9. Kanaan: Riesling-Chardonnay (free)

What do you do when the beer runs out? (And kudos to the guys at Jing-A for actually getting more delivered from the taproom.) You tap into the emergency stock of wine you brought. In this case, a lovely Riesling-Chardonnay blend from Kanaan winery in Ningxia.

This is only the first vintage of white wine from Kanaan but it already shows superior fruit and balance versus the vast majority of what is produced in China. I made two people at the Jing-A booth, and a chef at Traitor Zhou’s, try it, too. (The guys at TZ gave me a package of meat and two vacuum-sealed sausages. I’d say it was more than fair trade!)

10. Sue Zhou: Water (元5 x 4 = 元20)

Sue Zhou, who teamed up last year with Two Guys and a Pie for The Pie Bing — a meat pie wrapped in a bing — wisely brought plenty of water. She also made mini pancakes sprinkled with icing sugar that were a hit.

Total cost for six hours of eating and drinking: 元340. Given how much I consumed, I’d say that was decent value!

All in all, a good Jue Market, and with a strong turnout. The venue could have used more garbage bins and a water booth, as well as a poster with a day and date that matched, but no event is perfect. The mix of vendors — with the group selling foods and drinks a testament to how the Beijing scene gets better and better– and the entertainment, plus a chance to relax in the sun, made this one a winner.

(Check out new project World Baijiu Day and sibling blog Grape Wall of China.)

St. Patrick’s Day Beijing: Drink deals at Irish Volunteer, Irish comedy at The Local & Paddy O’Shea’s Being Paddy O’Shea’s

Trish Smith of The Irish Volunteer has a hands-on approach to St. Patrick's Day.
Trish Smith of The Irish Volunteer has a hands-on approach to St. Patrick’s Day.

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Given its regular slate of live Irish folk music, Irish Network China gatherings, Irish Irish football and rugby match screenings, Irish quizzes, and Guinness, Jameson and other Irish tipples, it might well seem Paddy O’Shea’s is in permanent St. Patrick’s Day party mode.

On Tuesday night, this veteran Irish sports bar — it’s eight years old, ancient in terms of Beijing bar years — will feature nine hours of Irish music videos, specials on all Irish beverages and a free drink for those wearing green. There will also be giveaways and a barbecue out front.

Meanwhile, the Irish Volunteer wraps up a week of food and drink special this Tuesday night. As Trish Smith writes, “We will have a bit of malarkey and lots of green beer / Make no mistake, you’ll want to be here!”

Food deals include the Irish Reuben with corned beef, white cabbage and brown mustard on an Irish French baguette, and choice of Irish French fries or mashed potatoes, for rmb45. You can add a cup of French Irish stew for rmb10. Get a full bowl of stew for rmb25 or a Guinness beef pie, made by Two Guys, for rmb40.

Wash it down with shots of Jamesons at rmb15 (doubles at rmb25) or Bailey’s at rmb20 (doubles at rmb30), a double gin or vodka Shamrocktini at rmb30, Irish coffee at rmb30, pints of Guinness at rmb45, or many of the other drink specials.

Finally, if you want giggles with your Guinness, check out Punchline Comedy at The Local. There will be a trio of Irish comedians — Colin Murphy, Colum McDonnell and Ian Morgan – to tickle your funny bone. There’s also a show at Charcoal in Shunyi on Wednesday. Details here.

Colin Murphy, Colum McDonnell and Ian Morgan comedy club china st patrick's day the local beijing

Jue Market update: Bagels, cured meat & doughnuts from Traitor Zhou’s

japanese nori bagel traitor zhou's migas okra works willow farm-001

I already posted here about the foods and drinks be available at this Sunday’s Jue Market and here some bagel options available / soon to be available in Beijing. I just saw that Traitor Zhou’s, which teams Migas, Okra Works and Willow Farm, will be at the market and bringing all kinds of deliciousness, too, including the Japanese Nori Bagel in the photo above. Looks good!

A press release says Traitor Zhou’s will also bring cured meats and doughnuts to the market. And will attend other festivals and events this year. And will soon open a series of shops:

“Traitor Zhou’s has been serving many restaurants and cafes in Beijing for the past few years. We are now also going to offer the products in store [the first one is slated to open in May] but with a bigger range and some of them exclusively only in shops. Product categories range includes sake, sausages, bacon, preserved vegetables, doughnuts, bagels and so much more.”

Here’s what one of those bagels looks like dressed:

traitor zhou bagel dressed beijing china-001

Home Brew: This Week’s Adventures with Butter Coffee

bulletproof butter coffee beijing china.jpg

I read that butter coffee increases energy and decreases appetite. Sounds like a good deal to me.

So I made some this week. The last few mornings, I have brewed a pot of coffee, ultimately choosing the aptly named “Breakfast Caravan” from Shangri-La over my dwindling stock of Tim Horton’s. I then poured a cup of that coffee in my handy Air Canada drinking bottle, which comes complete with strainer, added a pat of butter, and shook it for a good 30 seconds. The resulting frothy concoction went into my lucky monkey coffee mug.

I haven’t noticed any increase in energy but I have noticed one in appetite, most noticeably a desire to make toast or corn on the cob. Those aroma-memory triggers are firing faster than normal.

Am I doing something wrong? Will adding a slice of toast to this mix and shaking it until pulverized help? Should I have used unsalted butter? Or should I just make that corn, lather it with a blend of two of my favorite foods — butter and coffee — and declare it the new breakfast wonder?

Hump Day Happiness: A Five-Step Food Program to Beat the Mid-Week Blues

the bar-b-q chopped brisket sandwich special.jpg

Let’s say you’re having a bad hump day and want nothing more than to comfort food your way back to inner joy. Here’s a five-step program to take advantage of some excellent Wednesday deals within easy walking distance of each other.

1. Have you been to THE BAR-B-Q, the new smoked meat joint beneath The Bar and in the former By the Tree? No. Tonight is a good time to make a call as this place has a buy one, get one chopped brisket sandwich deal. Your 45 kuai gets you two such sandwiches.

2. With brisket in your belly, it’s time for an abundance of textures, a food both warm and cool, crisp and soft: tacos. They’re half-price at LUGA’S VILLA, 100 meters from The Bar. Luga’s has fish, chicken, pork and beef options from 60 kuai, which tonight means from 30 kuai.

3. Maintain the Tex-Mex theme with a visit to Q-MEX, about a five-minute walk away. Get a regular heaping pile of nachos at half the price. If memory serves, the options start from 65 kuai, which means just over 30 kuai tonight, and allows you to stuff your face with tortilla-based goodness for cheap.

4. Just how hungry are you? The chicken wings at THE LOCAL, just around the corner from Q-Mex, give you leeway on portion size and thus allow you to set up for the last stop. Feeling a touch full? You can order, say, five wings (get the Buffalo, they’re best). Still feeling famished? You can order, say, 200. They are only three kuai each on Wednesdays, bird feed given the price at many places.

5. Finally, stop for one of the best once-a-week foods in Beijing: chili at JING-A, a mere 50 meters from The Local. Chili is only available Wednesdays, comes sprinkled with cheese and jalapeno peppers and with sides of tortilla chips and sour cream, and will fill every last little available space in your tummy. An order is 30 kuai.

I realize there are other Wednesday night food specials in that area and that I could have created a ten-step program, and also that I could have included some drink deals, but this ought to get your started. Plus, I’m busy today, so perhaps a ten-step program, complete with booze options, will appear in the near future.

(Check out new project World Baijiu Day and sibling blog Grape Wall of China.)

World Baijiu Day: Catch the Spirit on August 8

World Baijiu Day Logo 2

Baijiu is the planet’s most swallowed spirit but production and consumption is limited almost entirely to China. World Baijiu Day, slated for Saturday, August 8, 2015, aims to introduce this alcohol to a wider audience, in a similar spirit as events that promote gin, vodka, whisky and rum.

Baijiu is already attracting lots of interest beyond Chinese drinkers. The first English-language guide, Baijiu: The Essential Guide to Chinese Spirits came out last spring, a timely publication given the growing number of bartenders experimenting with this spirit. A group of expatriates opened the baijiu bar Capital Spirits in Beijing last fall while another such bar, Lumos, is set to open in New York this month. And nine bars in London held a Baijiu Cocktail Week during the Chinese New Year holidays.

World Baijiu Day aims to contribute to this trend and to get more people to try this spirit. The event will see bars worldwide feature cocktails that use baijiu, flights that contrast different styles of this spirit, and more. Over the next month, the site World Baijiu Day will grow to include info about these events, a baijiu FAQ, tips on where to buy baijiu, and a list of online and print resources.

I’ll post here about World Baijiu Day events that specifically involve Beijing, but to get all of the news, please check the dedicated site. And if you are interested in more info or in participating, contact the organizers at spirit (at) worldbaijiuday.com.

Grape Wall Challenge: Best red wines in China under rmb100

grape wall consumer challenge vi at temple restaurant beijing china

Sibling blog Grape Wall of China organized an annual contest called Grape Wall Challenge (GWC) that features Chinese consumers judging wines that retail for less than rmb100.

The sixth GWC was held in mid-December at Temple Restaurant Beijing, which kindly provided event space and food, and the results are below. By the way, if you want to know why we organize this event and where we get the wines, click here.

To decide the winners, we ask the consumers / judges to taste each wine and then choose “love it” (10 points), “like it” (7 points), “dislike it” (4 points) or “hate it” (1 points). We then divide the total score by the number of tasters. The best average scores win.

As in previous years, wines from Argentina and South Africa made the top five. And it would have been a “new world” sweep if not for a wine from Spain.

1. Trivento ‘Tribu’ Malbec 2013 from Argentina. Distributed by Summergate, available at Pudao Wines, rmb95.

2. Santa Alvara Carménère from Chile. Distributed by French Wine Paradox, rmb81.

3. Bocopa ‘Alcanta’ Merlot 2010 from Spain. Distributed by French Wine Paradox, price rmb65.

4. KWV ‘Classic’ Pinotage 2012 from South Africa. Distributed by China Wines & Spirits, available from CWS, price rmb87.

5. Nederburg ‘Foundation’ Shiraz-Pinotage 2013 from South Africa. Distributed by ASC, price rmb89.

We also asked each judge to pick a “gold“, “silver” and “bronze” medal winner, in other words, their three favorite wines. You can get those results and links to past Grape Wall Challenges here.

Thanks to the consumers / judges, to Ignace Lecleir and Temple, to professor Ma Huiqin and her students, and to distributors ASC, China Wines & Spirits, East Meets West, French Wine Paradox, Links Concept, Summergate and Torres for their support.