Update if you care: I got the shoe issue settled. They’re being delivered this morning.
Today was the first full day of Taste of London. I took the tube up to Regent’s Park and made my way to the exhibitors’ entrance. I took a wrong turn and ended up in the utilities area. There were these bladders of water used to supply the festival. Looked like the bottoms of bouncy castles. I found my way back and went to the Korean pavilion.
The Korean pavilion is a major section, and I need to point this out. THE KOREAN GOVERNMENT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS. The only bigger national pavilion is the Thai one, and I’m pretty sure their government gave it some backing. The Korean government has for years been pouring money into this wormhole in promoting Korean food in the least effective ways possible. They don’t do things like this. It’s nervewracking.
Instead, this is entirely put together by Korea Foods, the UK food importer and grocery chain. I’ve been friends with them for years, following how this scrappy company has been able to do what the Korean government and even large corporations like CJ Foods have failed at. This is their next risky bold step. If today was indication it their investment has paid off.
The Korean pavilion has booths dedicated to different products, like Shin Ramyeon. And the companies’ reps are there as well promoting their products. The “38th Parallel” bar sells soju drinks. Next to it is a street food showcase. A different local Korean street food vendor takes over that spot each day. At the end of the pavilion is Gizzi’s “K-Town” pop-up restaurant. As I mentioned yesterday, most every part, including the pop-up restaurant, is free. They also give out free goodie backs with “I Love Korea Foods” printed on them. As the day progressed, I noticed more and more of those bags on people’s arms throughout the festival.
If the Korean government was smart (stop laughing), they’d pitch in and help build a more extravagant pavilion that looks like a Korean hanok or temple next year.
My job, I’ve found, is to talk up the menu during Gizzi’s pop-up restaurant service. It’s easy and fun. I just talk about Korean food and the dishes everyone’s eating. I get a lot of questions about living in Korea itself.
During the break times I’ve been wandering, trying to find new things to eat–or just anything to eat. I get hungry. What sticks out in my mind is this Strong Pale Ale that was cask conditioned. Hoppy and bitter. I nursed on that and went back to say hi to Theo Randall. He was getting people to eat his cheese.
He saw me and asked where my partner in crime was.
“She’s flitting around.”
“You want some scallops?”
My mother taught me right. Never turn down a free scallop.
PERFECTLY COOKED!! Oh, and they had lentils, capers, arugula–everything a growing boy needs. And notice the serving dish.
I was so busy eating that I didn’t get around to shooting pictures of everything. I went to the small producers section. Reminded me of the flea market at a county fair. A local cheddar producer had samples out of their different flavors of cheeses. I was so impressed that I bought a pack of six. Don’t tell customs. A little later I wandered to the Argentinian booth and chowed down on a light and filling Beef Empanada while also enjoying some spicy bread from the Jordanian booth.
At the Stubbins demo theatre, Scottish BBQ master Neil Rankin (Smokehouse) was talking up about barbecue. Dan had told me that I needed to meet him, so I introduced myself after the show. I was my usual awkward self, trying to impress him with my Decatur, Alabama, credentials.
The festival’s first session ended at four o’clock. They closed down to clean the toilets and get ready for the evening crowd. The weather suddenly started to get colder and threatening to rain. I moseyed back to the Korean pavilion and saw Gizzi sitting at a table in her restaurant with a few others, sipping on bubbly.
“Is there a meeting?”
“Yes. Sit down.”
I sat. We drank. More chefs showed up, including Neil. A lady promoting her bubbly gave us a bottle. A bartender showed up and dropped off a pitcher of this lovely gin and grapefruit punch. I was happy doing what I was looking forward to doing this whole time–drinking and chatting with chefs and others from the industry.
When things started up again, there was a new emergency. There was some Kimchi Bokkeumbap that needed to be made for tasting at the street food area, but nothing was prepared, and it looked like no one was going to cook it. I went into cook mode and started prepping for what we usually have as our Sunday Kimchi Bokkeumbap. Then the girls who were supposed to cook it showed up, so I didn’t need to do anything.
They burned it.
They also didn’t use the onions, ginger, and garlic I prepped. But they did burn that nice steak I minced. I took over and cleaned and scraped the flat top. I asked the kitchen for more rice. They had some extra. I turned on the griddle, laid down some oil, and got to work. Since it was a flat top, I cooked it Chinese style rather than Korean. Korean style usually just lets the rice sit there, but I needed to toss it so it wouldn’t burn again. The smell started to attract festival goers. I was looking like some Benihana cook tossing the rice around–looking like I knew what I was doing. At the end, I backed up and said, “Let it sit for one to two minutes. Korean fried rice needs a crust.”
I saw some surprised looks, as in, “I didn’t know you could do that to fried rice.”
When it was ready, the girls and I tasted it. It was fine. I left while they served. I heard it was all gone in no time.
Gizzi’s second service started, and I did my thang again. It’s so much fun. During all this I also met some more bloggers, including May Chong of Eat Cook Explore and Wai Lu Yin of SumGyeoJin Gem. In fact, Wai Lu Yin joined me for pizza after the festival.