National Week Vacation Part 3

Bear with me. This is a long and detailed story about Taiwan.

We had originally planned to spend our last morning in Penghu on some quick touristy expedition, but scrapped that idea for a leisurely morning in the hotel room. My legs were excruciating, and after breakfast I couldn’t do much more than lie on top of the bed with frozen washcloths draped over the burns while I slowly ate some ice cream. There was a baseball game on TV that kept Sawyer happily occupied.

Packed up and ready to go, Judy’s husband drove us back to the airport. I could have stayed there several more days. And I wouldn’t normally do this, but since I really, really enjoyed Hi-One-One, if anyone is ever thinking of going there, definitely check out http://www.siwei-ocean.com. There are 5 bed and breakfasts, each a different color, owned by 5 friends, including Judy and Hi-One-One. It’s a little removed from Magong City, and not right next to a beach, but it was amazing and you couldn’t do better, and they were pretty affordable price-wise.

We arrived back in Taipei in the afternoon and decided to leave our luggage in a storage locker at Taipei Main Station so we could get in a little more sightseeing. My cousin’s younger sister whom I had never met had informed us that her mother insisted on giving us some Taiwanese pineapple cakes, so she met up with us, awkwardly handed over four bags of cakes, and then sped off with her friend. We walked around CKS Memorial, and then I had to find a way to contact my great aunt. Sawyer declared himself to be great at picking out some random stranger who would be willing to help us. I steeled myself for the imminent Chinese conversation with a stranger. He decided I should approach a nice looking teenage couple sitting down. I wasn’t sure, but did anyways, and they had to ask their tourist dad and explain to him and he had a very strong southern Taiwanese accent so clearly one of us chose the wrong random strangers to accost. But after five minutes of explaining myself the man let us use his phone and I called my great aunt to inform her we’d soon be there.

I started to recognize the neighborhood as the cab pulled up, still hectic and busy with food stalls, a jewelry store, a corner fruit market. I couldn’t remember exactly which apartment was theirs, and I had written the address wrong, but after a little investigation, found the right one. Like all of my previous experience with my great aunt and uncle, we were ushered in, given slippers, and seated at the table. I introduced Sawyer to them and we were fed slices of guava and papaya. The papaya was really good–which is startling because normally I think papaya tastes like vomit. We didn’t finish the guava, so my great uncle insisted that my great aunt pack it in a ziploc bag and put it in my purse, since China doesn’t have good fruit (I mean, I agree, but…oh Taiwanese family). I took Sawyer up to my great uncle’s rooftop garden, which has only gotten more extensive in the five years since I’ve been back. Pumpkin, squash, peppers, cucumbers, mint, lettuce, carrots, even roses, flourish under his care, he’s built himself a veritable rooftop farm during his retirement.

They then took us to dinner. A son of my great aunt’s friend went to San Francisco and France to study culinary arts, and on his return, opened a restaurant just three weeks before our visit. A fusion French-Asian inspired place, it’s called Your Kitchen and was out of this world. It’s an open kitchen-great big floor to ceiling sheet of glass offers a great view of the chefs at work, and guests are encouraged to wander in and ask questions. It’s small, only 4-5 tables. We were seated, and the owner came to chat with us. It’s a set menu, that changes monthly.

Shrimp, Prosciutto Wrapped Melon


First course: avocado and shrimp salad on a cracker with caviar, and prosciutto wrapped melon. It was good although there wasn’t much avocado. Then the waitresses brought out wide shallow bowls with one open clam, filled with foam, perched on two rings of squid, and a dollop of yellow on the edge. They were shortly followed by the owner, holding carafes of steaming broth. He poured the soup into each bowl, explaining that we should taste the soup in stages. First, on its own, then, mixing in the white wine and broth foam, and finally, mixing in the saffron sauce, which turns the soup creamier and richer. It was well flavored and hearty.

Pre-soup Seafood

Bisque-Like Seafood Soup


Next came the grilled Chilean Sea Bass with a hollandaise sauce with mashed potato and asparagus. Sawyer gave me his piece as well. Didn’t I feel like a glutton. But it was perfect–texture, taste, everything was perfectly done. The chef then brought out a sorbet for a palate cleanser. He waited until we tasted to ask what flavor we thought it was infused with, gleefully, as if he was trying to stump us. Chef, your food is great, you’re very creative, but I got this. Basil pineapple sorbet. It was a very clean, bright refreshing taste, I really enjoyed it.

Chilean Sea Bass with Mashed Potato, Asparagus and Hollandaise


The next course was roast golden pork loin with beet-poached pears in a dijon sauce. The pork was tender and flavorful, the pears the perfect accompaniment. I was getting full fast though, and made Sawyer take some of mine since I stole his fish. The chef threw in another course, a sheet of pasta rolled up around mushrooms and vegetables in an Alfredo sauce. And then dessert. Pistachio cream bavaroise, dried pineapple and a homemade olive macaron.

Pork Loin with Beet-Poached Pears in Dijon Sauce


Dessert.


It was great. A great, amazing dinner. The food was perfect. My great aunt and uncle were super adorable and very happy that since the last five years, I grew up and got fluent in Mandarin and was very conversational (apparently, when I went to the bathroom, my uncle took it upon himself to inform Sawyer that not only had I gotten prettier since I was 17, but I also got a lot more talkative). Since we were sort of a funny dinner party–two cute old Taiwanese people and two young foreigners, my great aunt had to explain to the waitress that I was her niece and how exactly that relationship happened. The waitress replied that for a laowai my Chinese was very good and my voice was very sugary. Hopefully, that was a compliment.

My uncle insisted on driving us to the airport hotel, even though it was an hour away and we had planned on taking a train. Sawyer watched sports things while I acted like an idiotic child and kept flicking the “magic window” switch that makes the bathroom window translucent then opaque.

Our flight was at 7 in the morning. I groggily and reluctantly woke up. On our flight to Hong Kong, via Eva Air, apparently whatever type plane it is only sells first class and economy tickets, clearly we bought economy, but being in the front section of economy, were seated in their business section. It was very enjoyable–personal movie screen, way more space, nicer seat table. Too bad the long flight from Hong Kong to Beijing was on Air China. Not as comfortable.

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