Happy New Year!
Man, it's been a discombobulated start to 2020, which could explain why I'm several days late to posting my annual New Years update. We "missed a day", leaving for Boston's airport the evening of January 30th and arriving into Hong Kong on January 1, 2020.
Jetlag plus a head cold got the best of me, and I've been slowly recovering since the holidays.
In any event, that's no excuse, and I still would like to spend a little bit of time reflecting on 2019. I'm thankful for a few lazy days at home (between New Years holiday and this weekend) to give me some time to reflect and write.
2019 was my first full year working full time as a patent attorney at a boutique IP firm in Hong Kong. It was definitely a steep learning curve, but in a lot of ways I thrive in that environment. As a result, I've had a lot of fun at my new job and getting used to working in Asia. Some unexpected outcomes of joining my company? I started to learn Cantonese (the local dialect spoken in Hong Kong), and am making reasonable progress but still definitely not where I want to be (yet!). In general, I really enjoy the cultural exchange and diversity of ideas that I encounter while living and working in an environment that is very different from where I grew up.
I've started to feel more settled here, having joined a church and made some friends. I play on the church music team as a guitarist and have also helped out in different small groups in different capacities. I've met people from many different backgrounds, which has been pretty cool. Hong Kong is quite international and there are people here from all over the world.
I realized when reviewing my blog posts for the year how little I've blogged in 2019. Perhaps the combination full time work, more international travel (I went to the US four times this past year!), and adjusting to living in a new country played a part. It was a struggle to get a consistent rhythm.
I'm not sure what this means for 2020. I have still been eating out and exploring food at a crazy pace. I try my best to at least to post a quick Instagram / Facebook post when I can. I always take photos. But my backlog is now at around 70+ posts (not an exaggeration).
I will likely push forward another #50Postsin50Days challenge, or maybe #70Postsin70Days. However, for the long-term sustainability of this blog, I may have to consider how best to keep up! For now, I've considered writing more concise posts for most restaurants, saving the long detailed posts for special restaurants or trips.
All I know is, when I celebrated the 10th anniversary of this blog, I promised that I would continue as long as there were readers who enjoy my work. Although I don't get many comments anymore (it's a different era, and communication happens more on social media now), I really enjoy and appreciate folks who take the time to write me an email or message telling how much they appreciate my work.
Thank you! It is a labor of love, for sure.
Happy New Year!
And now, my annual recap of 2019 below . . .
January - ringing in the new year in Hong Kong
We ushered in the new year last January in Hong Kong. It was a joyous and carefree time. Little did we know how things would change in Hong Kong in about half a year, to the point that fireworks were canceled this year due to safety reasons.
We stayed in Hong Kong in January, hosting several out-of-town friends who were visiting Hong Kong. When entertaining visitors, we tend to revert back to the same pattern, taking them to try Cantonese seafood and/or dim sum, roast goose, egg tarts, egg waffles, pineapple buns, and many other of our favorite Hong Kong eats.
February - Flavorful Eats in Thailand
In February we went to Thailand over Chinese New Year and savored fantastic Thai food from Baan Ice (love this place!) as well as an elegant meal at 1-Michelin Star Paste (post coming soon).
Some of our favorite food memories came from a small beach fishing town outside of Bangkok. We absolutely loved the street side grilled fish and couldn't get enough of the mango sticky rice.
March - Hunan Province (Chang Sha) and Northern Cali
In March we traveled to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, home of extremely spicy food and known for being the place where Chairman Mao developed his ideology.
We spent a weekend here exploring spicy Hunan specialties and unusual foods. I ate snake for the first time (!). It was quite bony and not my favorite. We also sample black stinky tofu, ate fresh water chestnuts by the road (so good!), gnawed on spicy skewers (called 串串 chuan chuan in Chinese - love how the character in Chinese really looks like a skewer!), and saw more statues of Mao in the city than we ever had anywhere in the world.
We also flew to California and spent a week visiting Carmel and San Francisco. Highlights include Humphrey Slocombe ice cream, spending a glorious week with my college best friend, and exploring the Carmel area with gracious hosts.
Blooming April Easter in Tokyo
View this post on Instagram
Happy Easter! He is risen indeed! Greetings from Tokyo where we were pleasantly surprised with gorgeous late-blooming cherry blossoms 🌸 at Shingjuku Gyoen. Spent the morning attending Easter church service in Tokyo, had a lovely 🍣 sushi lunch followed by a relaxing afternoon wandering around Ginza. #tinyurbanjp #sakura #japan #cherryblossoms #happyeaster
In April over Easter weekend we visited Tokyo during cherry blossom season! Although the flowers bloomed earlier this year, we were still thrilled to catch some late blooming varieties in Shinjuku Gyoen Park, which was absolutely gorgeous.
We also tried Chef Ishiyama's new sushi place in Ginza, Luca Fantin's famous Italian restaurant in the Bulgaria building, as well as fantastic tempura and yakiniku. I will be posting on these restaurants very, very shortly!
Finally, we had a ton of fun at Disney Sea, which is a wonderfully pleasant, unique, yet fully Disney theme-park. I really, really recommend it!
May Springtime Home Visits - Boston and Ohio
In May we traveled to Boston for work and were able to attend and sing at our college a cappella group's 30th anniversary concert. It was a great opportunity to enjoy a lot of nostalgic Boston experiences, like roaming through Boston's historic downtown and visiting the ducklings at Public Garden. We also traveled to Ohio (my hometown!) to visit my folks and explore Toledo a bit.
June - Hosting Family in Hong Kong
In June my parents flew out to Hong Kong to visit! It was my Dad's first time visiting us here (my mom had visited before already). It has probably been over 30 years since my dad's been to Hong Kong, so it was fun to show him around.
July - Trip of a Lifetime to San Sebastian Spain
In July we went to one of our bucket list places, San Sebastian, Spain. Although I have been "falling behind" in terms of blogging about some of my other trips, I made an effort to document the very special restaurants on this trip as soon as I returned.
The trip was anchored around a reservation at El Cellar de Can Roca, a Catalonia restaurant in Girona that is often considered one of the best restaurants in the world. After we had reserved a spot there (11 months in advance), we planned the rest of the trip.
It was amazing. We loved Mugaritz, one of the most creative and thoughtful meals we've ever enjoyed. The grilled turbot in Getaria, a tiny fishing village, also blew us away. Of course you can't forget the pinxtos, one of the most fun things to try in San Sebastian.
The trip was everything we could have imagined. San Sebastian is truly a beautiful, charming place with warm friendly people, phenomenal food, and very reasonable prices. It's no wonder people return here year after year after year.
September - Celebrations in Hong Kong
In September Tiny Urban Kitchen celebrated its 10th anniversary. I reflected upon these past 10 years in a post I wrote in September.
It's true that things have changed A LOT in 10 years. Most of the bloggers I met 10 years ago are no longer blogging, having either moved on to other social media platforms or just moved on with life, in general.
However, for some reason, I've stuck with it, having published 1630 posts as of today (with 70+ semi-drafted posts that I still need to finish and publish)! Even though it's been awhile since I've posted a new recipe, I still refer to my own blog when I'm cooking. In short, I will continue to blog. Stay tuned as I think about different ways to share content on this platform.
View this post on Instagram
Happy Anniversary! 18 years 😱😱😱 It has been such an adventure sharing over half my life with you. 😊These last two year in HK have been quite the journey! Here’s to many more years going through life’s unexpected turns together. Celebrated with a meal at Amber in the @mo_landmarkhk - loved the innovative non-dairy gluten free menu @rekkebus has dreamed up. Amazing!! (more to come!) #anniversary #tinyurbanhk #michelin #Michelin2Star #frenchfood #glutenfree #dairyfree #frenchfood #18years
We also celebrated our 18th anniversary with a lovely dinner at the newly renovated 2-Michelin starred Amber (which I really, really loved). We booked a "staycation" night at Mandarin Landmark afterwards. Perhaps due to low occupancy, they upgraded us to one of their nicest suites, which was really special.
October Fall Foliage in Boston
In October I traveled to Boston (again) and reveled in the gorgeous fall foliage while visiting friends, family, and my favorite Boston haunts. My cousin even took me trick-or-treating in Beacon Hill, telling me it was a must-try Boston experience. I had a ton of fun eating oysters at Neptune Oyster, seeing old friends at Bergamot, enjoying Chef Lydia's great cooking at Sycamore, and getting my fill of New England beer at Trillium Brewing (one of my favorite New England beers!).
In October we also hosted a birthday party for Bryan at Tosca in the Ritz Carlton. The unrest in Hong Kong had been escalating by this point, and Bryan's birthday happened to land on the same day as a planned major protest. We decided to book a night at the Ritz, a staycation of sorts. This way we wouldn't have to worry about getting home afterwards, since transportation at night during a protest could be a bit unpredictable.
November Birthday in Hong Kong
In November we celebrated my birthday at VEA (post coming . . .) in Hong Kong. I also took a quick business trip to Shanghai, where I enjoyed Xinjiang food at a fun restaurant called Xibo, explored the Luijiazui (陸家嘴) neighborhood in Pudong near the Oriental Pearl Tower, and enjoyed cheese tea at Hey Tea, one of China's most popular trendy tea shops.
Early Christmas in Paris and London
In December Bryan and I took a week long part-work-part-play trip to Paris and London. Although it was nice to get away for a bit, we ended up arriving in Paris on day two of their massive transportation strike, probably the largest in their history.
Paris will always be beautiful, and the food was phenomenal. However, transportation was difficult (we got stuck in traffic for 2 hours traveling 4 miles to Chateaubriand!). We ended up walking a lot, which was nice in its own way.
We arrived in London on the day of an important Parliament vote. By the end of our first day in London, the votes had come in and BREXIT seemed all but inevitable. It was fascinating to be in London and talk to the locals during this turning point in history.
Actual Christmas in the US
We flew back to Hong Kong for only four days before flying off to the US to visit our families. It was short but sweet. We got to see family both in California as well as in Boston.
Time Flies . . .
And that's a wrap! What a year. As always, nothing is predictable and you never know how your year is going to turn out. We never would have expected the crazy geopolitical events happening around us. In some ways I feel like it's been A LONG time since I've lived and worked in Boston. In other ways, I feel like time is zooming by and I can't believe I've already been here for two years.
We take each day one step at a time. You never know what surprises might come along. Here's to 2020 and all that it brings.
Starting Monday, January 6th, I will try to reduce my backlog of 70+ posts by publishing 5 blog posts a week (!).