Monday, February 15, 2010

Korean Gold Begets Bek Se Ju

So Skeletor arrived early as planned and we managed to on the road by 10. Seeing how the crowds were yesterday, we figured they would keep on building - especially since there was a forecast of possible sun later in the day. We were bang on with the estimation of the crowds and the weatherman hit a homerun with a sunny afternoon.

We were planning to let Skeletor choose our course of action for the day but it was pretty clear from the start that line-ups were going to be de rigeur. We'd heard by word of mouth that the Canadian Mint Pavilion was a great one to hit. They feature actual medals for both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games on display. We arrived fairly early but the Mint was closed for a reception until 2.00 pm. The thought of waiting around for three and a half hours was a non-starter.

Little did we know that there wasn't going to be a single site in town that didn't have a line-up. We decided to give the Four Host Nations Pavilion a shot and got into line. We didn't realize it at first but, for today, they were presenting musical shows inside and they only admitted one group of folks an hour. After waiting close to an hour, they let the next show in and we missed the cut off point by about 30 people. Skeletor was being really good about the wait and said that we might as well sit it out and wait for the next show. There was a different show every hour and our show was a presentation of Metis step dancing with plenty of participation requested from the guests. Not what we'd expected but great fun with all the fiddle music accompanying the show.

There wasn't going to be time for another line-up like that one but we tried the Mint again and we were told that it was easily going to be three hours to get. We told Skeletor that it'd be easier if she just took up a sport and won one herself.

The remainder of the afternoon involved walking around the downtown core people-watching and checking out a couple of the smaller displays that didn't have line-ups. The dressing up of buildings was also great to see.

If there was any question before, it was clear that the lack of interest in the Games, that had been headlining the news in the previous weeks, was clearly at an end now.

There wasn't exactly an opportunity to sip back on a bottle for The List during the day - particularly with Skeletor in tow. But, after hours of being on our feet, we made our way home. Skeletor was in charge of choosing what was for dinner and she opted for sushi (although, for her, sushi really only means California Roll).

Seeing as how South Korea and the US had won the last two gold medals on opening day, I decided that we could stretch our horizons on The List and go with a Korean rice wine.

364. Kook Soon Dang Bek Se Ju (South Korea)

Good thing that I'd done a bit of a sweep at one of the Signature government liquor stores earlier to try and find wines from some of the not-so-commonly-found wine countries that had good chances at winning medals at the Games. I'd never heard of Bek Se Ju before. It's a rice-based, fermented alcoholic beverage that is flavoured with a variety of a dozen herbs - most prominently ginseng, but also ginger and yarrow, among other more esoteric Korean herbs (like wolfberry and "five-leaved aralia").

The name translates to "hundred year wine." Apparently, that's not the age of the wine but, rather, an allusion to the story that the combination of herbs will give you long life. The addition of herbs to Korean wine is a long-standing tradition - over 600 years; however, Bek Se Ju isn't necessarily seen as being as popular as beer or soju (similar to vodka) nowadays. Kook Soon Dang is apparently a big brand in Korea, however, as this brand was the official Korean wine for the FIFA World Cup that was co-hosted by Korea and Japan in 2002.

In Korea, it's often matched with spicy foods, but I figured that, seeing it's a rice wine, it should be similar to sake and might go with the sushi. Considering the fact that I don't think I've ever cooked a Korean dinner in my life, the odds are pretty good that, I wouldn't be whipping up any Korean food while the Olympics were on and, seeing that Japan hadn't won any Gold yet, best I jump at the opportunity as presented.

Its mellow taste indeed resembles sake but there's a definite twist to the flavour. Internet searches primarily refer to the taste of ginseng - but I'm afraid I don't have the slightest idea of what ginseng tastes like. Let's say that it's an interesting bottle to discover on this Odyssey, but I likely won't keep a steady supply of it in our wine cellar.

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