As many of you may know, my wife is Korean, not a “Fresh off the Boat” type of Korean (she was born in the U.S.), but still 100% and in-tune with Korean customs, culture, and to a certain extent, language (but that is for another discussion on a different blog). Over the course of our 15 year relationship, I have come to learn a few things about Koreans: they value family above everything else, they are very hospitable, and they have this sixth sense that is truly remarkable.
What sixth sense? I call it Koreadar (pronounced KO-ree-dar), which enables them to know when a Korean has experienced success in athletics, a Korean-American has been elected to some sort of position in this country (no matter how small), or another Korean is in our immediate vicinity (approximately a one-mile radius).
I have witnessed this phenomenon several times in the past 15 years, but a few particular occurrences stand out:
I am a bit of an Olympics junky and I was up late watching the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, well after my wife went to bed. That night, the prohibitive favorite in the Men’s 10,000 meter speed skating event (he was Dutch) was just crushing it. He was well ahead of his competitor and easily cruised to the apparent victory. Shortly after he crossed the line, however, he discovered that due to missing a lane change, he was disqualified and his competitor (whom he beat by 4 seconds, which is a lot in speed skating) won the gold medal.
Immediately the next morning, I asked my wife (who takes very little interest in sports, particularly speed skating) if she had heard what happened. She shook her head with a more than disinterested “no” I recounted her the story, and just I was about to finish the tale, she nonchalantly interrupted me:
“Oh yeah, and the Korean guy won.”
Then, during these past Winter Olympics (Sochi), I was up late once again, flipping through the numerous channels that were broadcasting the Games. Then, just before midnight, my wife, who had gone to bed hours earlier, came sprinting down the stairs, snatched the remote out of my hands, swiftly changed the channel, and sat down just as the Korean figure skater, Yuna Kim, took the ice to compete.
My father-in-law also seems to possess Koreadar, but it manifests itself rather differently. Basically, I know that anytime my wife’s father wants to speak to me on the phone, a Korean golfer (usually male, but it could also be female) has just won a golf tournament. My father-in-law loves golf and I think he assumes that since I like most sports, I also follow all the action on the links (I don’t).
The latest case just happened the other day. My wife was walking home from the Whole Foods when she stopped dead in the middle of a cross walk. She then turned around the corner and proceeded down the block where she found herself in front of a new restaurant that was opening that day.
A Korean restaurant.
She went in and started chatting up the owners. Eventually, she discovered that while they wanted to have an active wine program, they actually knew very little about wine. In fact, they wine they did have was still in the basement, in boxes. At this point she offered up my services, stating we would be back the following day for dinner, and the owners encouraged us to bring a bottle of our own as they doubted their wine would be ready to be served.
When we showed up the next day, bottle in hand, the waiter informed us that they did indeed have a wine list, which he printed up earlier that day. I was going to take a picture of it, but I decided it would be easier to type it up myself:
Pinot Grigio 7
That was it. Yeah, they need my help.
As for the meal? I would have to say that it was very, very good. It did not quite measure up to my wife when she makes Korean food (nor to my mother-in-law who has my wife beat, but only slightly), but it was fantastic. Perhaps the best endorsement came when my wife indicated that she wanted to go back–often.
The wine? It is easy to say that I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find the right wine to pair with Korean food and the simple answer is that there isn’t one. But I refuse to capitulate and turn to beer (gasp!), or worse, Soju (a distilled beverage made from rice or wheat, and is just plain nasty).
The problem with pairing Korean food? It is usually salty, spicy, sweet, and beefy (although there is also a bunch of seafood–a lot of squid). So while you might think you want to pair a big red with all that beef, the tannins don’t do well with the spice and the sweetness. Instead, I usually opt for a fruity red (the fruitier the better), an off-dry white (German Riesling style), or sparkling wine (which is probably the best choice). In fact, the best pairing of all might be, wait for it…
Yeah, I know. Although, I have not officially tried it yet, I might have to at some point.
On this night, I opted for one of my wife’s favorites to pair with Korean food: Château Ste.. Michelle Eroica.
2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica: Retail $22. A great Riesling nose with just a hint of petrol. Sweeter than the average Eroica, perhaps, which was great with my Dolsot Bibimbop (which was the best I’ve ever had). Slow service. Hot grill. Sweaty face. Wonderful meal. Very Good. 87-89 Points.