A movie and dinner with Lig this past Tuesday. You've seen my review of "Kung Fu Panda 3," so we can move on to talking about dinner at the Jamshil branch of California Pizza Kitchen. Dinner wasn't bad, all in all, although I never got a single drink refill, which was saddening. Our meals came with the standard sides of pickled carrot, turnip, and jalapeños, none of which you'd ever see at the US incarnations of this chain.
While Lig and I were waiting for dinner (there was a 30-minute backlog), we stepped outside for a moment to appreciate the monstrous grandeur of the Lotte World Tower, which punched toward the heavens right next to us. We talked about what it might be like to jump off; I remarked that a jumper at the very top would end up hitting the building on the way down, given its outward-flaring shape. Lig blinked prettily and asked me whether I'd had experience with this sort of thing before. "Why, yes," I replied sarcastically.
We'd been given no pager to signal when to go back to CPK; I had simply set my phone's countdown timer. At around T minus five minutes, we headed back and were given a menu by the hostess. We perused it and were encouraged to order right then and there; we'd be seated, and our order would be passed along to the stove-and-oven proles. Lig, who eats like a bird, got a modest-sized cheese-and-spinach flatbread. I ordered the pepperoni as well as an avocado egg-roll appetizer for us to share. We ordered drinks once we were at the table.
The Southwestern egg roll was tiny but good. It came with two similar-looking, similar-tasting sauces. I could have eaten about twenty more of them. The egg rolls, I mean—not the sauces.
Below, we have Lig's plate. She and I traded slices of flatbread and pizza, which is why you see pizza on her plate. I think she might have been almost full after eating just that.
Lastly, a blurry pic of my pizza:
After a movie and dinner, it was time to shop. Lig accompanied me on my postprandial hunt for a slow-cooker, which I needed so as to be able to make pulled pork the following day for Charles. We looked at Hi-Mart inside the gigantic Lotte mall, and while we encountered a whole slew of shiny, unaffordable gadgets, there were no slow-cookers in evidence. An employee showed us some rice cookers that all cost from $350 to $500. Ridiculous. You can get a standard cooker in the States for under $25. $350 for a rice cooker is insane. We marched over to Home Plus, about ten minutes away on foot. Again, no luck. I realized that I had bought my original slow-cooker at an E-Mart down in Hayang, so I gambled that I'd find what I wanted at the Yangjae E-Mart next to Costco. Lig said it was getting too late for her to continue the search, so she and I went our separate ways. She lives in the Jamshil neighborhood, so all she had to do was walk home. I hopped into a cab and headed for the Yangjae district. And sure enough, I found the same model of slow-cooker that I had owned and then given to my buddy Jang-woong for Christmas. Third time's a charm.
The next day was all about prepping for Charles's arrival. He had promised to bring a set of slider buns to surround my pulled pork (talk of "buns" and "pork" gets rapidly Freudian). I cleaned my place—more or less—and went to Itaewon to look for naan, cilantro, and some other needful items. Didn't find the cilantro, so I bought coriander powder as something to add to my otherwise-fresh salsa roja. We compromise because we must.
Per Murphy's Law, work expanded to fill the available time. Charles arrived slightly early, while I was still chopping olives for nachos. It didn't take long for him to show me his luscious, perfectly round little buns, and not long after that, we were making sliders and photographing them. Charles went with cheese for his first slider; I went with my homemade cole slaw:
Charles is an avid baker, and while he's never presented me with bad bread, I'd still say that he's improved over the years, and he's gotten very creative along the way. The slider buns, in this case, were a combination of whole wheat and an ancient grain called teff. The result was a firm, almost perfectly spherical bun made shiny thanks to an egg wash. While not the standard white-bread roll, the teffish bun had an interesting and earthy flavor that I felt complemented the pork quite nicely. It was a weird sort of unintentional harmony (how could either of us know for sure how this pairing was going to work?), and the bread would have been great for noshing without any accompaniment at all. It was firm, but not dry or crumbly like a bran muffin, nor was it overly soft and chewy. Hats off to Charles for a job well done.
As for the pork: I had separated the tenderloin and the shoulder. They had slow-cooked together, but I sauced them separately and presented the bowls to Charles. Charles could tell right away which was which (to be honest, this was more a question of biology than of culinary aesthetics: the difference in the muscle fibers is screamingly obvious), so there was little point in making him undergo a taste test.
Charles ate three sliders; I had two. Phase 2 of dinner was nachos. I had cooked up some homemade chili (and for that pretentious touch, I'd even added a bit of chocolate) and prepped store-bought cheese and guacamole, chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, fresh chilis, sour cream, and homemade salsa roja.
The results in my bowl (also bought specially for this occasion):
I had wanted to move beyond nachos to Phase 3: gyros/döner kebab. We never got there, alas. Sliders and nachos had done their evil work, establishing firm beachheads in our respective gullets. We talked and digested—enough for me to bring out dessert: my "mouce" au chocolat. Poor Charles knew he wouldn't be able to finish—especially not a dessert that was little more than heavy cream and two forms of chocolate. Charles did comment that the dessert wasn't as oppressively sweet as he'd thought it would be (or as I'd led him to believe), and he ate as much as he could without turning eating into a chore. Personally, I found the "mouce" rich and creamy and heavy, but it was delicious all the same. I think I like this style better than Nigella Lawson's mousse recipe, which calls for marshmallows to provide the airiness and creaminess (see my old blog entry here, for starters).
Mon dessert, fait maison:
Lig has been to my place quite a few times now, but this was Charles's first time at my humble abode. He never once stepped into my bathroom, so he couldn't appreciate the full Lovecraftian horror of that part of my dwelling. Maybe next time. There's always next time.
I promised Charles that we'd do gyros/döner if we ever did this again. In an email, he said he'd like to shoulder more of the culinary load next time. That's fine. Even if he doesn't, that's also fine. I thought that having his bread was great, but I'm okay with cooking it all myself: it's a pleasure—at least when things go more or less right, as I think they did yesterday evening.
ADDENDUM: Charles's take on yesterday's meet-up is here.