Friday, August 30, 2013

Cute Shit: Korean Baked Goods

This one is about all of the cute cakes and pastries in Seoul.

There are a shitload of them. 

Actually, I thought I'd accumulated quite a few more photos on this theme in my nine months here, but I guess I've just got the few I'm posting here now.

("Poo bread", exactly what it looks like)

Where to start? It's a good thing I'm allergic to wheat, or I'd get so fat here. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting some immensely popular cafe chain with lots of cute cakes, such as Paris Baguette or Baskin Robbins. The Baskin Robbins here are better than in the States, and their cakes are adorable, not to mention affordable. Why don't they market this stuff in the U.S.? No idea. I would spend like $22 on a miniature ice cream cake with three-dimensional stars and baby zoo animals.

I had been to a few Korean-owned doughnut shops on the left coast and wondered why those particular people seemed so adept in that niche, and as it turns out, it's because Koreans fucking love doughnuts. Since Korea is so homogeneous, there's basically a specific set of brands for everything (e.g. North Face jackets, Fjallraven Kanken and Kipling backpacks) and nearly every street throughout the country looks the same. 

Therefore, the dead cat principle (as it shall henceforth be known) also applies to doughnuts. Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme? Everywhere. Scroll to the bottom of this page to browse the basic Korean Krispy Kreme menu; it's pretty impressive. They offer a special selection in the spring that have fresh strawberries and look like tiny cakes. There's another super chocolatey one that has more chocolate chunks on top than there is doughnut. As you might expect, the Dunkin's have interesting flavours, too, such as Green Tea Red Bean, Mangosteen Jelly and Olive, Cheese, Cappuccino and Green Tea Chewistyx rings, which I'm pretty sure are made chewy and more savory by glutinous rice flour.

Small tarts, waffles and muffins are also subject to the dead cat principle. My large home subway station taunts me with seemingly countless bakeries and delicious smells. Cafes usually have an enormous waffle covered in whipped cream and accompanied by assorted fruit on the side made for a couple or friends to share, and cheap waffles are being made somewhere within throwing distance nearly 24/7, though I don't know how good they are.

Manoffin is one popular chain that always has really cute decorative muffins, as seen at Christmastime above.

These people do love their highly-refined carbs and sugar. Honestly, the fact that they're stick insect-thin is really unfair. If you don't yet believe me about how extreme their constant snacking is, take a look at the monstrosity on the left: it's just an enormous cube of chocolate chip bread about the size of your head. Not too many cafes have these, but nearly all have honey bread, which is a large slice of the cube bread (sometimes it's most of the cube) lightly toasted for just a tiny bit of crispiness but mostly for warmth and piled high with whipped cream plus whatever else, such as honey and caramel drizzle with almond slivers. This is also made for a couple or friends to share, but honestly, it's just too much. So much white rice with every meal and white bread for dessert, plus nearly everything is sweet for no reason; how has the diabeetus not swept through Seoul like the thing from The Host and wiped out half the population? The mind boggles.

Anyway, serious risk of diabetic coma aside, the enormous, usually cheap and very accessible selection of baked goodies here is lovely. Not all are up to Western standards of taste and texture, but if you're the type of girl who likes to stay at home with your cat browsing Pinterest, you'll probably shit yourself when you visit or move to Seoul. It's a good thing~

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend (8.3 - 8.4): Café Marathon, Local Art, Indian Food, and Back Sweat

This Saturday involved a marathon cafe-themed outing with an old high school friend and new coworker who just moved here at almost exactly the same time. 

We hit Myeongdong and went clothes shopping first. I spent too much money at Forever 21, and unfortunately, it was on very sensible things. Kim shared some of her treasure trove of knowledge concerning Korean skin care brands and products with Faith, and now I want to make videos of her and upload them so she can impart her knowledge unto the world :P

It was really hot and muggy and we got caught in the rain a bit. Since we were all kind of broke, we lunched at a little Korean restaurant in a basement, which sounds a lot sketchier than it was. The place was actually pretty big and popular, and basic local food is always the cheapest option. For a few seconds I convinced Faith that she needed to keep an eye on our stuff while we got water, because "bags get snatched in these kinds of places a lot". Oh lol, nothing ever gets stolen in Korea unless it's by another whitey!

Afterward we hit up one of Myeongdong's many cat cafes.

We got a middle-aged American guy we affectionately referred to as "dad" (though not to his face; because people from the same country miraculously ending up in the same touristy place at the same time must know each other) to take a nice blurry photo of us, hence the retake below. THANKS FOR NOTHING, DAD. 
Side note: every time I see/hear other Americans, I wonder if I'm as annoying as they are and remind myself to knock it off, and then figure they're probably thinking the same thing :(

At one point, while we were sitting at our table talking, I heard a scratching in the wall my shoulder was leaning against and was starting to say "I wonder what that -" when a cat exploded out of a small rectangular hole cut into the wall above our table, ran across it, jumped off, and scared the shit out of us in the process. It was great. They should have those everywhere. Except maybe in movie theatres and dentists' offices and stuff.

One cat had a ridiculously fat, fluffy, smashed face and we couldn't stop laughing after Faith said he looked like Teddy Roosevelt, because it was true.

There was also one very large white cat that just hung out by the automatic glass door and kept trying to escape. He was very friendly and meowed at people and rubbed against their legs and whatnot, but he was clearly jonesing for freedom and did indeed get out at one point.

When the cats (and chihuahua) grew tiresome, we set off further up the blue line to CapiCapi LoomLoom, Kim's Rilakkuma cafe Mecca. 

To get there, go out Exit 1 at Sungshin Womens' University and head up into the buildings, away from the main street you're on. Keep walking until you see the Greenwich Cafe, and turn left. It'll be a little ways down this road on the right.

INAPPROPRIATE. Oh, it's a baguette.

We each got a frappe: one mocha, one pistachio and one cherry-berry. And we shared an order of 팥빙스 with a choco-hazlenut drizzle on top. It was obscene. The frappes (at about 5800 won apiece) are just like full-sized fat American milkshakes, except they come in better flavours. The mountain of shaved ice was also inexpensive not only for its size, but for the amount and quality of toppings it had as well. 

While we were sitting there - Kim on an enormous Rilakkuma and Faith on a big flat Capibarasan - I was like, "You know, I don't even want to guess how many calories are - " before Faith cut me off with a "Shhhhh. Shhhh." We nearly lapsed into a sugar coma. It was wonderful and would be a delicious way to die.

It was hot and we were sleepy, but we trudged on. Neither Faith nor Kim had ever been to Itaewon and there was a small night art market at Gallery Golmok that night, so that was next on the itinerary. There were a few nice watercolours and some cute jewelry. The pics are crap, sorry.

We couldn't really decide on what real food to eat, mostly because it's a pain in the ass going to a restaurant with me, but also because Itaewon is really trendy among Koreans nowadays and that's driven prices up. Everyone was okay with Indian so we made it to good 'ol Taj Palace and just sat in the air conditioning for several minutes, each of us either on the verge of fainting or melting. We had been making jokes about how much we love back sweat all afternoon, and how awesome it is to feel absolutely disgusting. 

I showed them the two biggest foreign food markets after we ate, and we then attempted to find an elusive Australian bar and failed. It was too hot to press on; morale and supplies were low. We decided to call it and headed home. Phew!