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THE Lowly Peon

I Don't Know Why I Go to Restaurants Anymore 
19 March 2011, 10:57pm

Last night, daisy and I had a wonderful, full, healthy meal. We've been going out a lot lately, and to be honest, I have no idea why.

The meal was simple, really. We had a shrimp and mango papaya salad — quickly becoming a Jiang-Comp specialty — and sauteed jumbo shrimp, with some delicious bread and cheese. This sounds probably like a random Tuesday night meal, but in Hangzhou, it takes some effort.

The fruit here in Hangzhou is amazing. It's fresh, ripe, and (generally) cheap. But for fruit to be fresh and delicious, it needs to be in season. And I guess mangos aren't in season, so we went with papaya — much easier to cut, much more delicious looking, but in the end a small step down from mangos.

It's taken us a while to perfect the sauteing of the jumbo shrimp. And I think we've finally figured it out. As we were eating these shrimp last night, we both said almost simultaneously that not even the Hyatt could have made shrimp that delicious. We only had seven — a gift from the in-laws — and thus we savored every bite. (I guess in a restaurant the dish would have cost us at least $20.)

The bread and cheese probably sounds like the most boring of all these dishes, but in Hangzhou, it's the most difficult, hands down. All of the "international" markets here in Hangzhou (a growing number) seem to get their food from the same suppliers. So even if we make the huge effort to go to one of these places, we still only have a small choice. For last night's selection, we had a delicious gouda, imported Ireland. I'd tell you the name, but I'm pretty sure it's run-of-the-mill elsewhere in the world, and I'd rather continue fooling myself into thinking it's special. The bread in Hangzhou is usually too sweet, airy, and something you'd have along with a latte. But the bread we got was hard — almost impossible — to find here: dense wheat bread with sesames on the top. It was delicious.

And what puled it all together: we finally opened the bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir we've been saving for such an occasion, an Erath 2007. And let me tell you — daisy and I both considered last night moving to Oregon just to be closer to those grapes.

To top it off, we had some Belgian chocolates that we treated ourselves with after a small snafu in the HK airport last week. Together with that Pinot, and the feeling of being satisfied but not full (I love salad), it was the perfect end to a perfect meal.

So I'll ask myself again: why do I bother going to restaurants anymore?

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