Saturday, May 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Buddha!


It really does seem hard to believe a year has already gone by since the last lantern festival.  Domestic Goddess, Fire Marshall, and Five have been off having adventures in other lands, yet it seems like we were just seeing them off to the airport.  My budding workaholism has really kept the days moving, and I've enjoyed it, but man oh MAN am I ready for a break!

I don't think there's a lot I can tell you about the lantern festival that I haven't already said last year.  It's in celebration of Visak Puja (sometimes known as Duichin Day) - the day when Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death is celebrated.   However, I think my photos turned out better this year than last (probably because I took the photos myself instead of giving my camera away so I could help light the lantern).  I had great friends to hang out with, and if the weather was a little wet and cold, well, it made us appreciate the torches all the more.
Little Miss Catwalk and Champ lighting their torch.

Our lantern, filling up with hot air.

Getting ready to sail away.

Wishes floating away.
This has got to be the most magical moment of the year - thousands of lanterns floating up into the night.  Part of me wants to spend the next Duichin Day on top of Zaisan watching the lanterns rising from the stadium toward us.  This is one of those moments when it's impossible not to believe in magic. 

Grub Club: Gone but Not Pho-gotten

 Well, as you may have noticed, I've been MIA for a couple of weeks.  You can't say I didn't warn you - it has been an incredibly busy end of the school year, as predicted, but the real reason I haven't been writing is the fact that I've gone native.  In case you don't know, "going native" means that you adopt the habits or lifestyle of the local population.  Well, I've been spending a lot of time with teenagers, and one of my favorites used to watch an anime series called Fairy Tail during yearbook club.  Which made me curious enough to download it, and although I am a little embarrassed to admit it, I'm totally hooked, which has contributed to my neglect of my blog (a corner of the internet I considered my baby a year ago).

Wow.  A year ago.  Time flies.

Anyways, it was Champ's pick two times back, and she went with a pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) place on Baga Toiruu, across from Namaste.  I have no idea what it's called, but it was amazing.  As Engrish and I walked through the door the delicate aromas of lemongrass and whatever the hell else they put in pho hit our olfactory nerves, and decided for most of us that we were having either the chicken or beef pho.  We haven't been so similar in our choices since the night we went to German Doner.
Engrish had been here before with our small-footed friend, Five, and she said the fried spring rolls were great.  We asked for them but were told that they were bah-kwei.  We ordered the regular spring rolls - which were nice and refreshing - and then our waiter came back and said they could do the fried ones, and how many did we want?  So we had a lot of spring rolls, although I personally preferred the fried ones.

Engrish also had a salad, because apparently she's part rabbit.  It smelled amazing, and I may have snaked a couple of bites off her plate.  It had a really lovely citrusy/sesame-ey flavor, and I also may have been scooping little sips of dressing off her plate after she finished.  It was delicious food....however, the point was made that pho is not all that satisfying.  At least not on a warm day in Mongolia.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Grub Club: Gusto

Well, ya win some, ya lose some.  This week Little Miss Catwalk experienced that firsthand with her pick of Gusto.  It's an Italian restaurant on Beatles Street.  Personally, I think it's really hard to screw up Italian - pretty much every country I've lived in has had decent Italian, unlike Mexican, which seems to be really hard for people outside North America to get right.  And Gusto was not horrible, because as I said, it is REALLY hard to screw it up...but they seemed to be trying for all they were worth.
I started with a Greek salad, because they were out of caesar, and it was just about as good a Greek as I've had here - lots of feta, not a lettuce leaf to be found, and the dressing was not overpowering.  While waiting for it, the waiter walked past with bread for another table, and I decided we needed some bread, too.  This turned out to be my best decision of the night.  The garlic butter that came with it was the stuff of dreams.  However, it was downhill from there.  Their penne arabbiata didn't live up to my standards.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really right, either.
Blondie and Little Miss Catwalk each ordered pizza.  This was their margherita pizza, and as you can see it has neither slices of tomato nor leaves of basil.  Blondie reckons it was a frozen pizza. 

Champ ordered the tortelloni soup.  The tortelloni looked more like buuz, although they had pork in them rather than mutton, at least.  With only a few weeks left in the school year, we have to hope for a couple more wins before we head off our separate ways.

And speaking of the end of the school year - this week has been rough, and next week may not be any better.  Next year remind me not to plan so many big projects in the last month of school.  But there are lantern ceremony pictures to blog about one of these days, so don't give up on me yet.

Also, for the record, if you ever accidentally hit some keys on your laptop with your face while watching anime in bed and can't figure out how to unlock your mousepad...not that anything like that EVER happened to me...it's ALT+F9.  You're welcome.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Grub Club: L'Usine

So this is more than a week late.  I suppose it's a good commentary on my life, that I've been too busy to blog regularly, but I can't help being disappointed in myself.  Last year my blog was my baby, and I feel kind of like I'm neglecting it.  However, since I'm neglecting it in favor of real children - my ahmahzing students - I can't work up that much self-loathing.  If you taught them, you'd understand.
Anyhow, L'Usine was Squeaker's last Grub Club pick for the year.  It's a new French restaurant in the Regency Residence, just across the lobby from Mexikhan.  Last year when Fearless Leader took us to Le Triskell (HIS last pick, as it turned out), I said that picking a French restaurant is cheating.  In spite of the fact that L'Usine is completely different cuisine than Triskell or even Le Bistrot Francais, I stand by that statement.  Especially because the - owner?  Manager?  Whoever the guy running the show was, he was a smoking hot French guy, and even Blondie, who likes the French about as much as mouth breathers, agreed that he was a very fine looking specimen of manhood, which was, no doubt, part of the strategic rationale behind choosing this restaurant (well played, Squeaker, well played).
"Where's the beef?!"

L'Usine only just opened recently, and already was doing a pretty brisk business, but they have a few bugs to work out.  I was going to go for the chicken dish on their limited (albeit delicious) menu, but it was out.  Engrish thought their salad with beef sounded great, but was a little confused when she couldn't find the beef.  Turns out it was supposed to be "beets," which she said were much more delicious, anyways.  It was, however, lacking the nuts it promised, but the chef more than made up for it by bringing her a dish with lots of walnuts, pine nuts (which are worth their weight in gold here), and olives.

My biggest gripe was the fact that they didn't have coke.  Honestly - who serves pepsi outside the States and Vietnam?  I did a bad thing and helped myself to a couple of cokes from the convenience store in the lobby, which made my experience bearable.  I also had the croque monsieur and the French Onion soup (pictured at the top).  Originally I was only planning to have the sandwich, but Blondie's soup was so delicious that I had to have my own serving.
Champ ate half of Geek's special guest's food - a cheese thingy? - before she figured out that it wasn't her pot pie because it didn't have any meat.  She also ordered the onion soup because she thought her "pot pie" was not going to fill her up.  Then she figured out that that thing in the middle wasn't her pot pie, and when it arrived she realized she'd made a huge mistake.  Or possibly a wonderful one - some people do like leftovers, you know.

Little Miss Catwalk (formerly known as Wallflower) had a life-changing experience the previous week at Blondie's vegetarian cafe, and was never going to eat meat again, but since I didn't show up in a long red dress with black gloves (don't ask!) she ended up ordering this delicious fish dish (say that five times fast).  Or else she was kidding about the whole vegetarian thing. 

This grub club took place on the first of the month, which as my six regular readers may know, is a dry day in the great state of Mongolia.  You wouldn't have been able to tell that from our conversation on the taxi ride home.  For some reason Blondie and Little Miss Catwalk started using the word "butthole," and neither of them could stop.  Champ and I did our part, too, egging them on by laughing as if the many uses of the word "butthole" were the funniest thing in the world.  There are a great many reasons why I don't drink, but I think this car ride illustrates the best of them - I don't need to drink.  Life is hilarious and wonderful (not to mention I have few enough inhibitions) stone cold sober.  I feel really lucky to have friends that get that, whether they drink or not.

Now you'll have to excuse me - I need to get my butthole to bed, as I'm kind of sick and hope to be better for school tomorrow.