Gastro-bomb, Part 2: Cocktails’n’Calories at Gossip

Do not think that the konspicuous konsumption stopped at 5pm on Saturday. In fact, it continued, unabated, for several more hours. Because we live so far out in the stix, I like to make my visits to the city really count, which is why I chose to slap on a visit to Gossip in Thong Lo on top of our raw food/sugar binge. This is organization at its finest, folks.

The owner of Gossip – a cocktail bar and eatery – very kindly invited the magazine that I write for to review the cocktails and menu at the restaurant. I always like to be altruistic in these situations, so I volunteered T-bone and myself for this daunting mission.*

Karol, the quirky/passionate bar manager, whipped up a dizzying array of cocktails for us to try. I don’t have much experience drinking cocktails – whenever I see them on a menu, I usually cheap out and order “one glass of house red, please,” but I may be a new convert. The presentation and flavour combinations were artistry in a glass. Karol’s explanation of the drinks also enhanced the experience – he tries to balance his artistic vision with local tastes. For example, Thais apparently do not enjoy cucumbers in their drinks, so Karol has to content himself with hiding them amidst other, bolder flavours.

The Flower Fields Spritzer: Lavender bitter, rose and elderflower, Prosecco

The Aurelia – basil, thyme, limoncello. This was my favourite – a very unique mix of fruity and savoury flavours.

Fresh Step Cooler: artfully concealed cucumber, grape, and shiso leaf.

Mangosteen and Elderflower Sour: fresh mangosteen, elderflower, and lychee liquor

Racyrose: vanilla, chilli, and lemongrass. Topped with nitrogen foam.

Tender Love: bourbon with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and tonka. Yum.

Once we had been thoroughly bombarded with cocktails, Julien, the restaurant owner, wafted in on the evening breeze, and offered us food. We really couldn’t say no: following Newton’s First Law of Motion, once we’d started eating, there was no stopping. We sampled calamari and chorizo salad, shrimp satay, and steamed cod with ratatouille. I was lost in food paradise at this point, so I only managed to capture the chorizo and calamari.

Todd was excited by this writing assignment.

And then the desserts: very blurry photos of  the Marshmallow Chocolate Fondant and the Mascarpone Cheesecake.

This is supposed to be eaten in a very specific order: first, a slurp of the chilli infused chocolate; then a bite of the marshmallow fondant; then a sip of cherry juice.

Fluffy mascarpone cheese topped with pistachio macaron, gooseberry, and strawberry.

As we ate, I asked Julien loads of questions about his experience working in restaurants, and establishing Gossip. It was a neat opportunity – it’s always interesting to hear someone talk about their life passion, and Julien is clearly passionate about food.

After several hours, we realized that we had reached a heretofore undiscovered apex of fullness, and heaved our heaving stomachs onto the BTS. The things I do in the name of duty…

*This post is not sponsored by the restaurant

Gastro-bomb, Part 1: Rasayana and After You

Sorry for the gap between posts, friends. The truth is that I spent so much time eating this past weekend that I didn’t have time to post. And the truth is that I ate so much that I really can’t cram it all into one post. So, today, I’m going to present what I ate between the hours of 1pm and 5pm on Saturday, and on Wednesday, you’ll get to read about what I ate/drank between the hours of 5pm and 7:30pm. And just so you don’t think I’m an appalling glutton, let me offer the disclaimer that most of this consumption was done in the name of research – I had to review a few restaurants for a magazine. And as I learned in school, research legitimises anything.

On with the food!

First up was lunch with Kirk and Gi. This Cultured Couple just reeks* of good health, and when they invited us to their favourite raw food restaurant, we couldn’t say no. Rasayana is an organic oasis located next to a dog physiotherapy pool** on a quiet street in Thong Lo. The moment we set foot on the porch, we were enveloped in waves of hippy goodwill.

Like wallowing in pure rainforest essence. Whatever that means.

We all started off with fresh-pressed juice. If I was a better food writer, I’d be able to tell you what each contained, but let’s just say that Kirk and Gi’s juices were green, mine was purple, and Todd’s was puce. And they were loaded with health.

???????????????????????????????

Because all the food at Rasayana is raw (can’t be heated or cooled beyond certain points), the restaurant has to be really creative in its recipes and ingredients – we were really impressed by its interpretation of popular dishes. We sampled the mushroom burger, the pizza, and the pesto pasta.

The “bun” was a sunflower seed crisp.

A tomato-carrot filling covered in cashew cream and fresh basil.

Zucchini noodles with fresh basil pesto.

And going raw doesn’t mean going without dessert. We ordered the key lime pie, the doughnuts, and the carrot cake.

Carrot “cake” with strawberry sauce.

Dee-licious Key Lime pie

Date coconut “doughnuts” with a side of Todd’s hairy knee

All of them were tasty, but the lime pie was the clear winner in my books.

The meal finished with room temperature water, and warm tea. I could feel pure health radiating out of my pores.

But Gi’s pore-radiating was much prettier, so here’s a picture of her.

Unfortunately, I then chose to undo all the benefits of raw food by visiting After You, a popular Thong Lo dessert destination.

No, no. After YOU.

In my defence, I had to review it, but the timing was poor. I scooped up Hanna, a little buddy from my years working at summer camp, and forced her to eat cake while I snapped photos. She ordered the sticky toffee toast, while I had the mocha-toffee cake.

EAT IT NOW, HANNA!!! But not before I get a good photo.

My cake was good – an appealing slab of chocolate cake with toffee-nut topping, but Hanna’s toast was the winner. I couldn’t keep my fork off her plate. Something about a butter-drenched slab of white bread covered in toffee and ice cream just does it for me.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Sorry, buddy. You just don’t measure up to the toast monstrosity.

Hanna tried to fend off my fork while simultaneously pretending that she didn’t know the crazy person bumping into waitresses and snapping awkward photos.

And coveting other desserts.

As the toffee and butter wrestled with the raw food in my gut, I grabbed T-bone, and we headed to the day’s next culinary destination. Coming up on Wednesday: cocktails at Gossip!

*See, Mom: I learned how to spell “reek.” You can stop mocking me in the comments section.

**I am not joking.

Paddling the Mae Taeng, Part 2: Trip Details

**Warning! This is one motha of a photo/word bomb!**

Last Saturday, T-bone, David, and I took a 13hr “rapid express” train ride to Chiang Mai, where we would pick up the boats and gear for our 6-day paddling trip. All of us had previous paddling and camping experience, but none of us had done anything like this in Thailand. It was during new teacher orientation in July that we first started tossing around the idea of a trip – we discovered that David was a fellow adventure-lovin’ soul, and the three of us talked about an off-the-beaten track trip for months. We had a brief vision of buying a fisherman’s boat on a random river and just going, but it turns out that none of us could stomach the thought of being stranded because a hypothetical fisherman wouldn’t sell us his hypothetical boat. Plus, it turns out that the only half-decent, semi-current maps of Thai rivers are written in Russian – not great for navigating rapids. It became obvious that we needed something a little more structured, so we Todd started emailing rental companies. Turns out that most companies are strangely disinterested in renting boats to groups of randoms when they could be raking in the cash from guided tours. It wasn’t until we contacted a swashbuckling expat named Aidan that we saw any hope on the horizon. We pinned all our paddling hopes and dreams on his rental company, Chiang Mai Kayaking.

Aidan had never rented gear to independent trippers before, but he must have liked the look of Todd and his wives, because he agreed to supply us with boats, dry bags, a GPS, and transportation.

Showing the Voyageur a special northern Thai method of attaching a throw bag

He mapped out a section of the Mae Taeng river for us. The Mae Taeng flows into the Mae Ping, which runs through Chiang Mai, and our put in point was located approximately 150 km north of Chiang Mai. Aidan wanted to observe our paddling skills and make ensure that we safely got past a military compound (“don’t ruin my business by getting shot at”), so we spent the first afternoon paddling with his guided tour group. The stretch of river wound through the jungle, and though the water level was low, there were some fun features to navigate.

Just before we headed into the jungle

Once we had left the military base far behind, Aidan said “bon voyage,” and sent us on our way. David promptly used his new found freedom to jump off a tire swing into a foot of water with a group of intoxicated Thai gentlemen.

Decision making at its finest

The route

The stretch of river that we paddled alternated between dense jungle and farmland. The jungle tended to have more interesting features and swift flowing sections. It was fun in low water, but in high water, it would definitely be challenging. The farmland sections tended to be slow moving, and at times, a little dull. It was neat to observe the various farms, fishermen, and farm animals, but I kinda hate flat water.

Even though it’s serene

The cattle were a little baffled by us.

There were several dams and quite a few bridges on the route. Other than a few annoying portages, neither represented much of a paddling challenge, but they served as a constant reminder that we hadn’t really left civilization behind.

And the Country Wife can’t really leave the Voyageur behind

Portaging around the dam

We were struck by how populated the area was. I think we all naively hoped that we would experience some “real” wilderness, but even in the jungle, we were never really alone. One of the biggest water hazards were the diving fishermen – you never knew when one was going to pop up, wearing only goggles’n’ginch.

Happy monks were also a real hazard

Food and Gear

We had a motley assortment of gear going into this trip, to put it politely. Neither we nor David had brought much equipment from home, so we had to mooch some gear from friends, buy other bits, and simply go without. We bought hideous army print sleeping pads from a tourist trap, borrowed a tent from friends (abundant thanks to Josh and Jaime for saving us from spooning with Country Wife David in a 2 man tent), and discovered why flip-flops should never be worn on a paddling trip. It was a strangely liberating experience.

Trying to downsize, with mixed success.

While we brought our entire trip’s worth of food with us, we discovered that it was possible to buy supplies along the way. We bought vegetables and fruit several times, which made the packaged sauces much more palatable. We were also able to purchase water along the way, which saved us from filtering the sediment-rich jungle sludge. This was a huge bonus, considering that our back-up water plan was a charcoal “emergency filter” straw.

And the banana flower back-up plan didn’t work out so well.

Another back-up plan

Camping

We camped on a motley assortment of river banks, most of them in view of a farm. Being so close to civilization was an interesting experience, and led to some unique encounters. On our first night, we heard gunshots in the very near distance, and I convinced myself that someone was taking pot shots at our fire. On our third morning, we were awoken to the sound of two mahouts (elephant trainers) riding elephants through the river next to our camp. On our fourth night, the friendly folks across the river insisted on giving us huge pieces of hardwood for our campfire. And on the last night, we camped along an irrigation canal, and listened to the voices of chanting monks interspersed with horribly off-key karaoke music.

The elephant campground

Dead Dog flats campground

Dead Dog flats campground

Good-bye, Mae Taeng

6 days later, Buccaneer Aidan picked us up at one of the most scenic dams I have ever seen.

Wearing exactly the same clothes as the first day!

After loading our gear, boats, and filthy bodies into Aidan’s truck, we headed back to Chiang Mai. An awesome perk of tripping in Thailand are the cheap massages you can get afterwards. The masseuses made the interesting decision to put a curtain around my mat, while leaving Todd and David to enjoy a couples massage. I guess the Country Wife aura still lingers. I also got a pedicure – and yes, I gave the salon an exorbitant tip for dealing with my filthy feet.

And finally, there was nothing left to do but mow down on some Mexican food, and enjoy a heinous bus ride back to Bangkok.

It’s good to be back in Bangkok, but there is a large part of me that still wants to be out on the river. I’m already thinking about our next trip…

Paddling the Mae Taeng, Part 1: A Voyageur and His Wives

Today’s post will focus on da paddlers. Next post will talk details – river, camping, gear, surprises etc. for anyone who wants to do a similar trip.

Last Sunday, T-bone gathered his two wives, David and Ruth, and headed to the Mae Tang river. No, Todd does not actually endorse polygamous behaviour, but his favourite historical paddling heroes, the Voyageurs, sure did. Every time T-bone gets near a river, he starts dreaming of being a Voyageur, and this trip was no different. For the uninitiated, the Voyageurs were a hearty group of French-Canadians who routinely paddled across Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries to collect beaver pelts from First Nations communities. They played an important role in founding Canada, and are at least partially responsible for the fact that an overgrown swamp rodent is our national animal. They also had multiple wives – city wives and country wives. City wives were the official/legal wives, and they were fine for doing city/wifely things, but when you’re on the river for months on end, you need a husky broad on location who can skin beavers/lug your boats/maybe sew you a coonskin cap or something. The concept of a country wife was just too darned convenient for us to pass up, so we nominated David for the role.

Todd cannot believe his good fortune

The highly delineated roles of a Voyageur and his wives really worked well for our team. The tasks weren’t always traditional, but they got done with a certain je ne sais quoi that just wreaked of French-Canadian history.

Voyageur Todd: Fishing, Bannock-making, Navigating, Looking Visionary/Noble

Voyageur Todd did his best to fill those large francophone shoes by fishing and making bannock.

Sadly, he never caught anything. Perhaps this was because every man, woman, dog, child, and monk seemed to be out dredging the river with nets and spears at all times.

How can fish not want to be caught by such kindly folks?

Fortunately, his bannock making experiments were more successful. A nice hunk of beaver fat would undoubtedly have cranked up the flavour, but the Voyageur did pretty well with vegetable oil.He was also very good at gathering fire wood in his  birchbark canoe kayak.And navigating rivers. His navigation may not have saved me from flipping my boat, but it did provide some pontificating-full photos.

 

Country Wife David: Jumping off stuff, hauling wood/water/tents/boats/everything, being perpetually perky, and offering the best facial expressions a photographer could hope for

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Poses like this cannot be taught 

David had a knack for simultaneously making photogenic expressions while being ready to launch himself off the ground and haul stuff around the campsite. The perfect Country Wife.

The Voyageur doesn’t even realize what’s lurking behind him…

Mere words are inadequate.

David also enjoyed hauling boats and assorted schtuff on bizarre portage routes that he and the Voyageur dreamed up.

I won’t reveal the body of water that they decided to portage into, but let’s just say that it rhymed with “Irritation Locale”

City Wife Ruth: petting animals, conducting cooking experiments, growing algae colonies in my hair, sniffing out beverage/bladder stops

The little cow that tried to eat my arm. I think he liked the flavour of whitener-enhanced sunscreen.

I like to pet dogs, but even I drew the line at this one.

I conducted a variety of culinary experiments that ranged from successful to highly dubious and borderline poisonous. Fortunately, the Voyageur and Country Wife were a willing test audience.

I knew that banana flowers were edible. Unfortunately, I forgot which part.

Fortunately, some of the recipes worked out well, so I could hold onto a bit of City Wife cred.

Roasting eggplant, red pepper, and garlic in the coals. The hair/algae colony is only on day 4 at this point.

Sister wives can be friends!

The trip wasn’t quite full of enough hardship/misery/beaver fat to make Todd’s Voyageur dreams come true, but at least he nailed the wife bit, and got to bellow his favourite paddling song whenever the urge hit.

Next up: The River!

Yaarrrrrr! Off on our river adventure

We’re about to embark on our one week kayaking trip – just enjoying one last breakfast and googling “does Thailand have wild crocodiles?” Whatever the answer to that question, we’re about to be dumped at the side of a strange river with a random assortment of gear that we scrounged from teachers, students, market vendors and 7/11. It’s gonna be good. I’ll be out of blogging range for the next week, and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventures with you when we get back. If we get back. (I’m joking, Mama Jan).

25560210-071527.jpg
Todd and David sort food

25560210-071657.jpg
Waiting for the train to take us north