Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Shopping

It's very weird not being in LA in December. And what's weirder is that it's now December 23 here in Korea, but I'm not getting that Christmassy feeling, despite the cold wintry weather. I think I need my family, my mother's wreaths and garlands and red ornaments, my father's outdoor Christmas lights edging the roof, my sister's purchasing of obscene amounts of butter, and the insistent meowing of the cat, fat with her winter coat, to feel appropriately Christmassy. Even when it snows (it's been snowing on and off for a few weeks, but nothing that sticks for long), it doesn't feel as Christmassy as it does being in LA, walking around in flip-flops, drinking iced coffee.

Despite my somewhat depressed Christmas spirit, I went out and saw some Christmassy sights and did a little Christmassy window shopping (eye shopping in Konglish, which sounds disturbing to me- shopping for eyes??). I'm proud of myself for going out when it's been so dang cold that I fear my nose and ears will fall off due to frostbite before winter's over.

This is the crosswalk between The Galleria East and West (Korean site, English site here). The Galleria's a department store in the Apgujeong neighborhood (압구정) of the Gangnam District (강남) in Seoul. The Galleria's on Apgujeong Rodeo street (oh, Korea, really?), a very posh street in the already very posh Apgu area.

I really liked the lights and the Christmas tree-shaped stack of Christmas presents. Though the Galleria in Apgujeong is "luxury," selling designer brands and such, their food court and grocery store make me feel like I'm back home, so I love it. Their grocery store (in the basement of Galleria East) carries a lot of stuff that I can't find anywhere else, or have to travel very long distances to find. Some of the things I buy here are Sriracha sauce, tortillas, flavored salts, pasta in shapes other than spaghetti, chutney (for a country that pickles and jars vegetables like crazy, Koreans don't make chutney at all), cheese (REAL cheese! Stinky cheese!), charcuterie ... the list goes on and on. Yes, because it's the Galleria (the branch in Apgu is actually divided into and called Luxury Hall East and Luxury Hall West), prices are marked up disturbingly high, but that's supply and demand. The food court is generally bustling, but not nearly as loud as in other department stores. I think the acoustics were well-planned in the Galleria. And the food court has a Vato's Tacos, which is nice.

One of my favorite dishes is naeng-myeon (냉면, also spelled naeng-myun), which, seeing as how it's an average of about 25 degrees Fahrenheit lately, is not a good idea. But I was craving naeng-myeon, so as a nod to the cold weather, I had it with grilled skirt steak (is it still called skirt steak if it's from a pig?). This is a really delicious combination, which sounds weird but tastes good and is pretty dang addictive. Yummy.

This was at SeoRae (서래 갈매기살, website's in Korean and English), a chain of skirt steak (skirt meat?) restaurants. They sell other cuts of meat (pork and beef), of course, but I quite like the skirt. One of my favorite ways to eat steak in L.A. was skirt steak, Argentinian-style. It's not the same as Korean-style grill-your-own-meat, of course, but it's still good.

Coffee (yes, mine is iced, even in this weather!) at Willium Cafe (links to a Korean blog with nice photos), close to my office. It's tucked away and quiet, and has teddy bears that live there. Aww. I'm a sucker for a cute teddy bear, though I don't like owning them, as their fur seems like dust traps to me. (I'm so not a romantic soul...)

A very odd thing lately is that I sometimes forget that I'm in Korea. I don't know why, I don't know how, but I sometimes think I'm in LA, and that I can just get in my car and zip to my parents' house. Perhaps the cold is addling my brain.

Anyway, hello from Korea and happy Christmas Eve Eve!