Friday, November 28, 2008

Reason #4 to Love Taiwan

Comfy student cafes in Taipei.

We - we being four Americans, an Australian and a Taiwanese girl - celebrated Thanksgiving at Exotic Masala House, the new Indian restaurant featuring idli and dosa. I think they're losing money; some menu items are gone, the rice is no longer saffron-colored and we had to ask to get the same orgasmic cardamom & cinnamon kick to our tea.

Well, the Taiwanese member of our group noted that it might have been spiced less dramatically to cater to Taiwanese tastes; maybe other customers didn't like it the old way.

It's still a good restaurant though, and the tea is still fantastic as long as you make sure it's got the right amount of cardamom.

After that, we tried to retire to Cafe Salt & Pepper, but it was full. Not interested in the smoking area (even the girl with the stuffy nose could taste the air) we moved on to Cafe Bastille (Shi-da, not Gongguan).

I love how Taipei has no end of these cafes - Cafe Odeon, Latte (or Shake House - we're not sure), Lumiere, Red House, Bastille, Salt and Pepper, Giuliano, and about a million more. Good beer at a reasonable price - yes, NT180 for Belgian beer is reasonable, the same beer in an American pub would cost you far more - comfortable seats, great atmosphere. Funky and fun without being ratty or juvenile. The actual food at some of these places could stand to improve (although Red House does a decent meal and all of them do good brownies) but relaxing with a Delirium Noel in a tatty grandma-chair with good music and a good vibe...that can't be outdone.

Here's where I put in my plug for Malheur 12% Bier. You have to try this stuff at Red House Pub (nobody else seems to have it). This is amazing stuff. Black as night, so fuzzy and deep that it foams right out of the bottle once opened; you have to have it already tipped into the glass if you don't want to lose any. It tastes like everything that's good in the world. Imagine coffee cake, raisins, peaches, pumpkin pie, well-cooked high-quality steak, a crackling fireplace in the dead of winter, Christmas carols, richly flavored tea, gingerbread, black chocolate, dark cherries, cooked apples, cinnamon, Ethiopian coffee, old mahogany, evergreen trees, nutmeg and the sweet sound of your mother's voice - all distilled into an amazing beer experience. Try it.


It was great that out of our group, the Americans talked about Thanksgiving and the others replied with "Yeah...I've heard about that" for things we consider not only normal, but indispensable. 8-hour bus rides home, cold weather, bickering with relatives (all because you love them, of course), cooking all day, watching parades and American, or as I call it, real football, and eating fabulous amounts of fabulous food, followed by swigs of alcohol and getting along famously with the relatives you bickered with earlier in the day.

Thanksgiving as an expat - the rating: 8. Not as good as being home, but still pretty damned good.

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