Taipei Takeover: Drinking Your Way Through

We already know that Wa Shu might just be my favorite cocktail and whisky bar in the world (and I wouldn't blame you for just hanging out there your whole trip) but we also checked out a few more bars in our short trip, so if you're more into craft beer or cocktails a little more classic, here are some good options.

Hodala

Conveniently, Hodala is right around the corner from Yongkang Beef Noodles, making it easy for you to get some pre or post noodle brews. Hodala has a solid mix of their own beers and guest taps from around the world available and with 16 taps, you're sure to find something you like or you can do a tasting paddle if you're not sure. (I was very excited by the number of dark beers on the menu and went for the Black Bullet and Fear the Oat!, both from Hodala) The beers here range in price from around $8-$10 (US) which might seem a little crazy after you've just spent that same amount on your entire dinner but is pretty average for craft beer around Asia. The exposed bricks, odd lighting and very intentional giant water pipes running along the wall didn't do much for us in the way of decor and generally I would describe that atmosphere as trying a little too hard to be cool but since I live in a neighborhood in Seoul I sometimes describe as "Brooklyn Disneyland", I'm well familiar with this style of slightly too shiny and new industrial and once you've had enough beers you probably won't care.

Hodala is located at No. 10, Lane 4, Yongkang St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106 and you can find more information on their facebook page.

啜飲室 (The Tasting Room)

On one hand, like Hodala, The Tasting Room's exposed wood, stainless steel and soundtrack of smooth jazz, give it a feel of trying to hit a particular aesthetic and not quite getting there but on the other, it actually is also an art gallery with some pretty cool stuff on the walls and as much as I want to talk about how over the top hipster their twenty different custom made, hand crafted tap handles are, they're actually pretty cool and I'm sad I didn't get a good close up shot (the image on the beer glass is a print version of one of the handles). The taps here definitely have a pretty heavy showing from West Coast breweries like Rogue and Heretic and they only had one Taiwanese beer on tap, so if your heart is set on trying some local beers, this isn't the place but with tons of beers we can't get in Seoul (including a good selection of dark beers for me) this was a good place for us to have a few rounds when we decided we'd pushed a little too hard in Jiufen the day before and needed a rest afternoon. Beers here are around $6-$8 (US) so a bit cheaper than Hodala, but also still not full pints. It's walking distance from Wa Shu if you're interested in doing a mini bar crawl.

The Tasting Room is located at 復興 南路 一段 107 巷 5 弄 14 號 No. 14, Alley 5, Lane 107, Section 1, Fuxing South Rd, 大安區台北市 Taiwan 106, you can find more information on their facebook page.

Ounce

I didn't snap any pictures at Ounce because this small, dimly lit speakeasy just didn't seem like that kind of party and while normally I have very little shame about taking photos of my food and drink, the bartender serving us turned out to be good friends with my husband's childhood best friend (TRUE STORY) so I didn't want to make a total ass of myself. (He's also how we found out about Wa Shu after we were asking about the selection of Japanese whiskies)

Ounce is hidden inside Relax cafe but don't worry, it's not that intimidating a speakeasy, just walk in and say you're their for Ounce and they'll direct you to the door tucked in the corner. There's no menu here, just a conversation with the bartender about your preferred liquors and flavor profiles and plenty of twists on classic cocktails. The drinks here are solid, costing around $12 (US) for a cocktail and the room is small and intimate but not so pretentious that we felt out of place in jeans. If you want an only in Taipei experience, go to Wa Shu but if you're looking for somewhere a little less adventurous to relax after a day of sightseeing, check out Ounce.

Ounce is located at No. 40, Lane 63, Section 2, Dunhua S Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106, you can find more information on their facebook page.


Captivating Kansai: Beer Komachi

Karaage at Beer Komachi in Kyoto, Japan

We went to Beer Komachi at the recommendation of my twitter friend and craft beer lover @megoizzy, primarily to sample some Japanese brews, with the intention of having dinner but not really having much in the way of expectation for the food. The Japanese beers were good, but the food, which is primarily a modern take on izakaya classics, was great.

For beer, I started off with the Pumpkin Ale from Iwate, which isn't a typical choice for me, but nothing else really struck my fancy. It was more of just a pale ale than a pumpkin ale, which was fine with me but I didn't love it.

To start neither Dan or I can ever resist ordering Japanese pickles and the spread here couldn't have made us happier. Alongside the more typical radish, cucumber and cabbage, was pickled eggplant, something I would've never even thought to pickle and would have guessed I would hate. I'm not a huge eggplant fan, so I did let Dan eat more than me, but I couldn't resist such an interesting combination of flavors and texture. This was definitely bar food taken to the next level and we were incredibly excited for our next courses.

Next came the house smoked selection of the day; egg, seasoned cod roe (mentaiko), Japanese radish, cheese, salmon, edamame and pork liver. I like liver in pate and mousses but I very rarely like it whole but the smoked pork liver was an exception. I'm always a little mixed on smoked cheese, I find too often instead of a balance between creaminess and smoke, you can end up feeling like you're just eating a weird hunk of solid smoke but this one was done perfectly, slightly smoky on the rind but still creamy and delicious in the middle. The smoked egg was perfectly done with a still translucent yolk. There wasn't a loser on the plate but the smoked mentaiko absolutely stole the show. It's no secret that I absolutely love cod roe but Dan was also on board with me when it came to this being the winner. A punch of salt and smoke with a texture unlike anything else, the serving was almost too much but also made me only want to eat that forever. If Peach flight prices drop insanely low again, don't put it past me to fly to Kyoto just in hopes that the mentaiko will still be on the menu.

Our "main course" was karaage and french fries because I'm also incapable of saying no to Japanese fried chicken. I stole Dan's Black IPA from Tochigi when it turned out to be more like a porter and less like an IPA which was ideal for me. The "fried potato with Kyoto chili peppers" were nothing exceptional but they were well seasoned. The beer battered karaage was beautifully fried, crunch on the outside, well seasoned with just a hint of ginger and steamy and moist on the inside.

With it's low key atmosphere and our seat at the bar allowing us to watch the preparation of so many delicious foods coming out of the tiny kitchen behind the bar, we wanted to stay for another round (and considered ordering more food even though we had had plenty) but unfortunately it's cash only and we realized we had just enough on us to cover our four beers and four plates so instead we settled up and headed back to the train to Osaka. But if we go back to Kansai, we might need to stay in Kyoto instead just to be able to stop by more than once.

Beer Komachi is located at 444 Hachikencho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, you can find more information on their facebook page or twitter.

Hard Lemonade for Adults

Hello! And welcome to the second installment of Punch is the Lazy Lady's Signature Cocktail. I know that you're asking yourself "isn't all hard lemonade for adults?" and you would be correct, definitely don't give hard lemonade to your non-adult children but what I'm talking about here is hard lemonade done a little classier and a lot more delicious than a bottle of Mike's. I've made variations of this lemonade for recent parties in our own home and have brought our punch pitcher to a friend's barbecue where it disappeared before the host even knew it was there! One of my friends even asked me for the recipe to make for her recent birthday party in New York. What I'm saying is, this is a lemonade being consumed around the world. You want in on this action.

Rosemary Gin Lemon Limeade

  • 2 cups simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • a handful of rosemary sprigs
  • 2 1/2 cups gin
  • 4 cups water
  • one cucumber (sliced)

Basil Cucumber Hard Lemonade

  • 2 cups simple syrup
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups vodka
  • 4 cups water
  • one cucmber (sliced)

Thai Hard Lemonade

  • 2 cups simple syrup
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup lemongrass vodka (I used dried lemongrass infused in a bottle for one week)
  • 1 1/2 cup kaffir lime vodka (I used dried kaffir leaves infused in a bottle for two weeks)
  • one cucumber (sliced)
  • optional: fresh or dried thai chillies to taste

You might have noticed, all these recipes are more or less the same. It seems like a lot of sugar but because you're using fresh squeezed lemon and/or lime juice, anything less and it's pretty mouth puckering. If you're concerned that it's going to be too sweet, start with one cup of simple syrup and add the second cup one quarter cup at a time until you reach your desired sweetness level.

The incredibly simple instructions:

  1. Pour the simple syrup into the bottom of a large punch bowl or pitcher and then add in your herbs. Muddle. Pour in your water, citrus juice and booze. Add in cucumber. Stir and taste. Adjust any quantities to your personal preference. Let sit refrigerated overnight.
  2. Right before serving, put in fancy ice blocks with citrus slices and fresh herbs, guests are always really impressed by that and it doesn't take much time to throw together. I make mine in disposable tupperware containers because they pop right out and I have a variety of sizes.
  3. Watch it disappear in an instant.

 

Flower Gin

It's possible my favorite bar in Seoul is a tiny place in Kyungridan called Flower Gin. It only serves drinks made with Hendrick's, it's also a flower shop and sometimes there's a small dog named Coco running around and snuffing you. It's wonderfully bizarre.

The shop itself is quite small, maybe only ten seats. There's another row of stools outside at a bar against the window, but so far we've only gone in cold weather. There's not much too see on this stretch of Noksapyeong-daero, so I'm not sure I'll take advantage of the outside stools when the weather warms up a bit more anyways. I will probably take advantage of the gin and tonics to go, though.

Inside, the lighting is low and the air heavily scented with roses. The size and the warmth make it feel cozy and inviting, but the soundtrack and decor make me wonder if I'm quite cool enough to be there. I've never associated a flower shop with somewhere that's too cool for me. Almost everything in the bar is Hendrick's branded.  Lots of alcohol branding in a bar is usually something I find obnoxious, but here it's so whimsical and surreal it only adds to the charm and makes me wonder where and for how much I can get my hands on a set of Hendrick's coasters.

For drinks I usually stick with a simple but beautifully presented gin and tonic. There are a few other drinks on the menu and I occasionally branch out but we go here more for the subdued, but by no means boring, atmosphere than for fancy cocktails. I like it as an early in the evening, figuring out your plans for the night spot though I also think it would be a good, low key but unique first date location.

Flower Gin is located at 666 Itaewon-dong on Naksopyeong-daero.

Flower Gin Bar Kyungridan Itaewon Seoul