Happy Memorial Day to all of you in the United States. I’ll not be taking today as a holiday since it isn’t a holiday in Thailand. Instead, I’ll wait for the end of June, when Tawn and I will have a three-day weekend in Hong Kong.
It has been a full weekend, full enough so that I haven’t taken the time to blog. Let me give you the highlights.
First, though, let’s have a cute picture. This is Devin, the son of high school friend Lalima and her husband Aaron. They regularly send us albums and we love it: such a good way to stay in touch.
Size Doesn’t Matter: initial GLBT networking event small but successful
Friday evening was the first of what will hopefully be monthly networking events at Tamarind Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant and gallery on Sukhumvit Soi 20. There is a noticeable gap when it comes to places to socialize for members of the international GLBT/GLBT-friendly community: most of these places are nightclubs or nightclub-adjacent facilities in the Silom district. There are few places to socialize that aren’t bars or nightclubs.
In an attempt to close that gap, to create more spaces for a broader community to develop, the French and Chinese co-owners of Tamarind Cafe decided to advertise monthly Friday night mixers. For the price of a glass of wine or other beverage, you get a cozy environment, music volumes low enough to actually engage in conversation, and a wide selection of tasty appetizers.
The first night’s crowd was a little light – Kobfa, Tawn and I met for dinner at the restaurant and were joined a short while later by Ben, who runs the Windsor Hotel just down the street and had informed the rest of us of the event. When we gravitated to the second-floor gallery for the mixer, there were only four other people but it is upon these small steps that a marathon is run.
As it turned out, one of the other people, an American woman named Roka, was someone I had met a few weeks ago online. We had exchanged emails so it was interesting that we should connect at this event. I guess it gets bonus points for efficacy.
As for the restaurant, while it is just a little pricey (nice night out prices, not everyday dining) the food is well-prepared. Co-owner Sylvie Bruzeau is French and so she takes European techniques to a mostly pan-Asian list of ingredients. All the food is vegetarian with an eye to high quality ingredients. The menu also features some Thai dishes, done fancy. The interior is very nice, service is attentive, and they have an extensive breakfast menu so one of these weekends Tawn and I will be back for brunch.
Thai house construction techniques look flimsy to this Californian
Determined not to have a crazy weekend of deadlines and checklists, we started Saturday on a relaxed note. We stopped at the Emporium food court for lunch amidst hundreds of families with crying/screaming/fussing children. Then we went to a small framing shop in one of the sois behind Thong Lor so Tawn could get some Herb Ritts and Annie Liebowitz postcards framed. Already an afternoon coffee break was called for, so we stopped at Big C center on Ekkamai. Tawn decided to have a manicure while I wrote some letters over a latte.
It was while walking back to the car that I observed a building under construction next to the shopping center. The construction style is interesting and, it seems, very typical of the technique used in Thailand for small buildings such as temples, houses and businesses.
The framing is built of reinforced concrete beams including the ridge, primary rafters, collar ties, and ceiling joists. To construct it, wooden forms have to be built and then concrete is poured in (on an angle) and allowed to set before the forms are removed. Additional steel rafters are installed between the concrete ones to provide support for the roof.
I’m not sure why I’m so fascinated with the construction techniques used here. Maybe because of the architectural studies I took in high school. Or maybe just because the construction looks so flimsy to my un-trained, non-engineering eye. Especially with the recent earthquakes we’ve had here, I have to wonder whether these types of buildings could withstand any seismic activity.
Rain’s fans cause traffic nightmare
From Ekkamai we drove to Central Chidlom to run some more errands and buy groceries for dinner. What a mess! Who knew that Korean pop star Rain was giving a free concert at Siam Paragon shopping center to generate excitement (as if more were needed) about his two Khrungthep concerts next weekend? Traffic along Phetchaburi Road was a mess and it took us nearly ninety minutes to get from Asoke to Chidlom, a distance of maybe 5 kilometers.
As a side note: Rain’s US website homepage reads “Endless effort, endless endurance, endless modesty.” Endless traffic, more like.
After the madness, we decided that home was the best place to spend the evening, so Tawn cooked salmon and snow peas in Chuu Chee curry and I made a Cajun shrimp dish from the Cha Cha Cha cookbook.
This gave us lots of tasty suaces to be sopped up with a loaf of rustic rye bread and washed down with a bottle of TarraWarra Estate 2006 Pinot Noir Rose.
Ajarn Yai calls to announce the start of school
While preparing dinner, I received a call from Ajarn Yai. When she found that I was cooking dinner at 9:00 in the evening, she expressed concern that I was eating so late. I wondered whether this was the real reason she was calling. Eventually, she arrived at the reason for the call. A date has been set for school to start: Monday June 4th. The first day for English instruction will be Wednesday June 6th.
All of you people out there who have helped / are considering helping with the English instruction, mark your calendars!
Designer advises several months of renovation
Sunday morning I was up bright and early for a Skype call with my family. My parents were visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Kansas City for the holiday weekend so they, along with my uncle, were a part of this call. I really appreciate the convenience of Skype. It makes it so much easier to stay connected with my nieces as they grow up. Emily is a ham and for at least the first few minutes (before she gets bored because watching her uncles “on t.v.” isn’t as interesting as, say, watching Shrek for the umpteenth time) excitedly recounts the events of her week.
After catching up with the family we drove around the corner and met with Ble, friend and interior designer who has done such fantastic work as the restaurant Mahanaga on Sukhumvit 29, pictured above. He has done some interior sketches of our new condominium and wanted to discuss the ideas with us. There are several “problems” that we need him to address:
- Moving the washer/dryer from the kitchen to the bathroom and how to make sufficient space for them.
- How to maximize storage in the master bedroom.
- How to best divide the living room from the second bedroom/office.
- How to arrange the dining area while still having room to store the wine cellar.
He’s received our initial feedback and will continue to work on the plans. It will be a very cozy and comfortable home, but our original estimate of maybe a month’s worth of construction is probably woefully naive. If we’re lucky, we can move in at the beginning of September, instead.
Amazing California strawberries lead to dinner party
At Central on Saturday, there was a special on strawberries from Watsonville, California. Strawberries are always tremendously overpriced here and most of the time, they’re awful, too. Careful breeding has led to strawberries that look beautiful but are lacking in flavor. When I walked by the display counter I caught a whiff of that heady, overpowering perfume of fresh strawberries. Just to make sure, I picked up a carton and inhaled deeply. Sure enough, these were the real deal.
Sunday afternoon, while Tawn visited with his parents, I went back to Central and bought a kilogram (2 pounds) of fresh strawberries. The cost: 269 baht ($7.88) per half-kilo.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with my Cha Cha Cha cookbook spread open. The menu: cinnamon-scented lentils, mashed sweet potatos, and red snapper cooked en papillote in a lime and annatto oil marinade served with spicy mango salsa. Do you want free dessert next time you visit Cha Cha Cha (pictured right)? There’s a link here to their city search page. Print the page, bring it in, and get a free flan.
Our dessert? Homemade strawberry buttermilk shortcake with fresh vanilla whipped cream. I forgot to take a picture of the real thing, but the picture here is a fair representation.
We invited Vic down for dinner and he brought a nice bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Kobfa was invited, too, but wasn’t able to make it. His loss – more shortcake for the rest of us! I can’t wait until we’re in the condo and have a large enough kitchen to invite larger groups over for dinner. Right now, turning out a complete meal for four people really pushes the limites of our confined kitchen.
There are a lot of variations of strawberry shortcake made with pound cake or angel food cake, but those simply aren’t shortcake. Shortcake is sweetened biscuit dough, made with either butter or shortening (or a combination of both). The secret to really good strawberry shortcake, besides using really ripe strawberries, is to add just a little bit of very high quality balsamic vinegar to the berries as they macerate. One brand I really like is Villa Manodori from Williams Sonoma. This adds a complexity and richness to the sweet berries.
Stuffed but fully satisfied, we called it a successful end to an enjoyable weekend.