Friday, June 22, 2012

week 91_Typhoons & Summer Treats

Now that I have reached 24 weeks (well past the halfway mark of growing Baby Gerock!), I have finally regained my previous love for all things food, and ~ good, or bad ~ I seem to be catching up for months of lost time spent on endless meals tasting something akin to sawdust.

Our office has not had weekly tea times these past few months, but we still manage to celebrate at least once a month for various birthdays/anniversaries with the company/etc! Here's an example of the spread for our June birthdays ~ Wow.

Chocolate Cakes from 'Black as Chocolate' ~ dark  bittersweet cocoa fudge icing,
Fresh fruit trays (including tomatoes - they are always included as a 'fruit' here!),
Fried Chicken and Assorted Pizzas, Coca~Cola Classic to wash it all down. 
I recently noticed the opening of a dessert shop on ZhongXiao E. Road named "Ice Monster". The location is along my path home if I choose to go that way, and when it's hot or muggy outside, something icy is the perfect way to beat the heat! Their reputation precedes them, and since I had heard such good things I just had to check it out asap! Ice Monster specializes in icy desserts. It's popular in Taipei to eat shaved ice piled with assorted fruits, syrups, jellos, and treats. I will be back to this place... repeatedly :) [Not to mention it's generally a light dessert ~ no heavy creams or chocolates]

Left: Complimentary Treat (because they just opened)
Taiwanese Bubble Tea Ice Cream complete with Tapioca Pearls,
Right: I ordered the Lemon Orange Freeze,
Lemon/Orange Ice piled on a mountain of shaved ice
drizzled with citrus syrup and a few jello cubes.
Summer in Taipei is creeping in on us. I feel like it has been mild so far (Wasn't last summer hotter?), but my memory may just be fuzzy. Or preggo brain has gotten the best of me! Either way, June has been a hazy blur of rainy days and muggy mornings so far. The heat hasn't gotten the best of me yet, but the humidity is killer - of course!

This week we had not 1, but 2 typhoons narrowly pass the island. One on each side! Luckily, neither typhoon hit Taipei and life/work has continued as usual... but I wouldn't have minded getting an extra "typhoon" day off work ;)

Typhoons are similar to hurricanes, and can certainly have dangerous side affects such as flying debris, power outages, and landslides in rural areas. Our life in Taipei city is quite secure though - only affected by these things minimally - and mostly on a typhoon day it is a good chance to stay home and read a book!

Despite the weather, and the humidity, I'm still counting on summer treats to cool me off. The Dragon Boat holiday is today, Friday, June 23rd. We are working as usual, but the office has had an influx of goodies delivered to us from clients and friends (just as we've sent gifts to them too, of course). This afternoon's sweet treat: lychees.

Lychee fruit: Red crusty exterior with juicy white inside

If you've never tried a lychee, you should! In our global marketplace, they have become more available even from supermarkets in the US if you know where to look. To me, a lychee tastes like a "fruit punch" flavored fruit. Very sweet. As the case would have it, they also make an excellent flavored martini or mojito... Will have to wait on that treat for a few more months!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

week 90_BaiShaWan Beach

My birthday gift "wish list" this year was: A Day at the Beach!

Taipei Red Line MRT, Headed North to Danshui

For the final "birthday" outing in my ongoing series of celebrations, hubby and I spent a day exploring a new beach (new to us) near Taipei. The day happened to be a cloudy and misty Sunday, but we figured this might actually be to our advantage since many of the more beautiful beaches near Taipei become crowded and rowdy during great weather. The hubby just purchased a new camera a few days before my birthday, so this was also a great opportunity to break it in! :)

I like the above ground MRT lines best ~ More to see

MRT Station Map... We're headed to the end of the line!

That's Me! Priority seat girl ~ For Now ;)

We set out for a destination that we could reach easily via public transportation --- taking the red MRT line to it's north terminal station, Danshui, and then catching a bus from there to BaiShaWan Beach. There are multiple buses to chose from and the kind folks at the Information Desk at the MRT/Bus Station are happy to point you in the right direction.

Our small shuttle bus from Danshui MRT Station to BaiShaWan Beach

BaiShaWan is known for being a large, open, beautiful white sand beach - and on a bright sunny day, I have the feeling the sand really would look more *white*. Our hazy day was still pleasant though, and great weather without being too hot. Not to mention (as you can see) we had plenty of beach to ourselves!

BaiShaWan Beach, June 2012

You'll notice that the people in the photo are congregated at the opposite end of the beach. I've heard talk that some beaches in Taiwan have designated swim areas, roped off by buoys and protected by life guards. This was our first time to visit one of "those" beaches --- not the best for free spirits who enjoy swimming deeper than chest deep. To me, a beach destination should include the ability to just dive into the water head first. As this was clearly not the case ~ we opted not to swim that day, but instead enjoyed the sightseeing, the fresh air, and the chance to stretch our legs / play with the new camera :)

BaiShaWan Beach, West End ~ Rock Formations, Trails Beyond (above beach)

Some of the mossy green rock formations were so beautiful, you would think these photos were taken somewhere else ~ Ireland? We loved all of the rocks, pools, and sea life.

Pools trapped among the rocks

Gorgeous. Wish I had caught a picture of the crabs, but they were happy to hide in these rocks!

Since we weren't swimming, we enjoyed exploring instead... full of crabs, fish, seashell formations, and sea creatures, these rocks could keep me entertained for hours!

Barefoot Beach Bar ~ Fresh Kiwi Juice, Appetizer Sampler
Best travel mate ever.

Once I was ready for a snack (after all, I am pregnant and this was a moderate workout) we stopped in at one of the beach side cafes for refreshments. There were also shops selling beach ware, floats, etc. and the stereotypical showers or hose available to rinse your feet for spare change. I love the availability of all these conveniences along the beach: hotels, cafes, showers, lockers, tent rentals, etc.

Jellyfish ~ We saw a LOT of these on the beach that day.
Does this kind sting???

The trip was great, but we did decide this is probably not our favorite beach destination for swimming. Walking, Hiking, Photography, Beach Cafe, Sunbathing, Napping, Reading a Book ~ You get the idea ~ It's a great destination for some leisure time just beyond the city.

BaiShaWan Beach, East End ~ More rocks to explore

With plenty of summer time yet to explore, I can't wait to check out more new beaches! (and to break in my new pregg-o swimsuit!) :)

Friday, June 8, 2012

week 89_Dinner at Marco Polo

For my birthday this year, the hubby and I enjoyed a romantic evening at Shangri-La's Far Eastern Plaza Hotel Taipei.  The hotel has multiple restaurants and we made reservations at Marco Polo, located on the 38th floor. The restaurant is an "Italian" restaurant, also specializing in steaks - and we could certainly see the Italian spices and flavors, but I felt that the menu was very well rounded with offerings for anyone, including a vegetarian set. Marco Polo has received multiple awards over the past three years, and also has some pretty rave reviews online, so it seemed like a good choice for a special occasion... We weren't disappointed!

NOTE ~ You get what you pay for, and you are certainly paying for it here... but the food and the service were both excellent! The seasonal menu includes set meals or a la carte entrees and dishes. We both decided to choose from the set, assuming it would offer the chef's highest recommendations and dishes that pair well together.

Our seven course meal included:
(forgive me, the menu on the website has already been updated so these are terrible descriptions of very delicious and well planned foods... You will just have to take my word for it that they were much more amazing than my meager photos & descriptions)

MP Welcome Bite
Smoked salmon with cream & caviar

Assorted freshly baked breads, crackers,
with olive & anchovy topenade, oil & vinegar dipping sauce

Vegetable Soup (not pictured)

Salad with Prosciutto and freshly grated Parmesan (not pictured)

Homemade pasta with meat sauce

Husband: Ribeye

Me: Roast Duck with dipping sauce and sides

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse (below), 
Assorted candies & cookies (not pictured)

You know the restaurant is fancy when the food comes out in such small portions on such large dishes! ;) We had fun sampling each other's selections, and sorting the bite sized desserts from good to best. The portions were small to moderately sized, but with the 7 course set, I could not have eaten another bite more! You probably cannot tell in the photos, but the view of Taipei 101 at night is stunning, and the restaurant seated us at a table with a perfect view of Taipei 101 and the downtown skyline.

It was a fantastic choice for a special occasion ~ now how on earth will we top that for our anniversary? :)

Monday, June 4, 2012

week 89_another Birthday in Taipei!

Another year gone by, and (yep) I'm already another year older!

This year, for the third time in my life (2006, 2011, 2012) I spent my birthday in Taipei, Taiwan! It's actually a great location for celebrating ~ whether you're looking for big city glamour or an ocean side vacation, it's all at arms reach from where we're sitting.

I know my birthday celebration(s) last year were fun and festive [remember last year's adventures: here, here, here, and here! <<< What can I say, I like to stretch the celebration as much as possible AND I try to do the same for the hubby :) ]

This year was no different than any other, so we lined up a few festivities to celebrate my growing old ;)

Special Delivery:
Flowers from my Mom & Sister 
Moved these to a vase ~
they make my desk much more cheerful! :)

For the actual day -a Wednesday of all days- I was, of course, working! It still turned out to be a nice day though. Complete with a flower delivery to my desk from Mom & Sis, a special lunch with my teammates at Macaroni Grill (a splurge for us at lunch, but delicious!), and an extremely posh dinner with the hubby after work.

For lunch at Macaroni Grill we had:
Fried calamari (much fresher than you'd be served in the States),
their signature Rosemary bread with olive oil & vinegar (looove),
and I ordered the Pick 3 lunch with Pumpkin soup,
Orzo/Chicken/Citrus salad, and a pasta similar to Chicken Marsala,
a glass of Aranciata San Pelligrino (sparkling water)
PLUS the Chocolate Birthday cake ~ so rich and delicious!
(since birthday cakes in Taipei usually have a different flavor...)

For dinner, the husband and I dined at a gourmet restaurant, Marco Polo, on the 38th floor of the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel. We chose the place based on some reviews, and we were not disappointed! We knew the restaurant would be "nice" but it is now on the list of top 10 fanciest dates we have ever been on AND this weekend we also enjoyed a day at BaiShaWan Beach together (this was what I had told the husband I wanted for my birthday this year, no gift wish list). Visiting the ocean always makes me happy.

More posts to follow with details and pictures :)