11 (Sun) September 2011
Smoked Salmon with Artichoke Hearts and Capers
at The Terrace
(Grand Hyatt Hotel)
-Hannam, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Chuseok, Korea’s most venerated national holiday, represents the celebration of the autumn harvest. Ideally in large gatherings of the extended family (if possible), ideally in the family’s ancestral hometown (if possible), ideally with obscene amounts of traditional food and drink (if possible), it’s celebrated over 3 consecutive red-letter days, the middle day being the main day, allowing a day each for getting ready (food), gluttony (food and drink), and recovery (drink). During this time, many/most families also engage in elegiac rituals for their ancestors, a somewhat incongruous part of the otherwise life-affirming festivities.
It’s calculated on the lunar calendar and thus corresponds to different dates on the solar calendar every year (for the gainfully employed, the best-case scenario is to have the 3-day period start on a Monday or a Wednesday and thereby create a 5-day vacation when combined with the weekend on either side); this year, for example, it began on a Sunday (making it a 4-day vacation with Monday and Tuesday being free.
The Hyatt was offering a special holiday package that included an overnight stay + buffet dinner for two + use of the facilities = 150,000 won.
The package came about in connection with our 5th wedding anniversary. Being a romantic soul, I had initially hoped to have dinner with the wife and kid at the Ritz-Carlton, where the actual event had taken place 5 years ago, and toast the occasion at the stroke of midnight. But we discovered that the Hyatt was offering a better deal, and had a better view, and a pool, so to hell with romance.
Alas, the quality and creativity and variety of the buffet were all subpar. Not even a full buffet, just a single circular table with a handful of salad items and appetizers, sushi, carved meats, and hot dishes, none of which was particularly tasty or interesting. The featured photo shows something that I made, which rated 3.0 only because I was so happy to find artichoke hearts, a rarity in Korea.
In response to the surprised disappointment that I expressed over the food, W declared that the Hyatt buffet had always sucked. But I could’ve sworn that it had once been one of the better spreads on the scene, back when buffets in general were cool and hotel buffets in particular were primo. “And when was that?” she asked. “Around when I was in high school,” I replied. “That was more than 20 years ago,” she said. “Fuck,” I said.
(See also FOODS.)
(See also PLACES.)