Afternoon Tea // Park Hyatt Seoul

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Perched on the 24th floor with floor to ceiling windows, Park Hyatt Seoul's afternoon tea comes with great views of Gangnam. With this afternoon tea, I had a chance to meet with Executive Chef Massimiliano Ziano, who oversees the entire culinary team. He described everything on the three-tiered tray once it arrived and saw his Italian influence with sweets like the bombolini, an Italian doughnut and the mini panini sandwich.

SETTING: ★★★★☆
The space reads more business lounge than a lush setting for afternoon tea, but the seats were comfortable and the view was nice. 

SERVICE: ★★★★☆
Service was mostly excellent, but faltered slightly towards the end when I request hot water and then later, an extra savory. The hot water took about 20 minutes to arrive and the savory took so long that we left before we got it. As it was at The Shilla Seoul, we got hand towels before we ate, which I loved, since it adds a touch of a little luxury.

The afternoon tea here looks picture perfect. 

TEA & TEA SELECTION: ★★★★★
Depending on the tea you order, you'll get different teaware. I ordered a Korean tea, a persimmon leaf tea, and it arrived in a pretty glass teapot with a matching double-glass cup on a wooden tray. My friend Claire ordered a black tea, and it came in a classic stainless steel teapot and matching ceramic cup on an oval silver tray. These little details create a very luxurious experience.

SAVORIES: ★★★★★
Every bite was delicious!
Thoughtfully created and freshly made, the savories were perfect in size and were quite delectable.

SCONES
One scone paired with half of a sweet roasted fig per person on the scones tray, which was just the right amount and they complemented each other perfectly. Clotted cream and preserves were on the table in matching small bowls for the scones.

SWEETS: 
A nice variety always gets high points in my book and the Park Hyatt Seoul, with a mix of sweets from a opera cake to bombolini, all in mini sizes, gets five stars. 

OVERALL: 
The food here is on point and perfect in portion and serving size. We left very happy and full.

INFO: Park Hyatt Seoul | 606 Teheran-ro, Gangnam-gu | Seoul, South Korea, 135-552 | +82-2-2016-1234
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: Daily, 2:30PM - 5:30PM
COST:
 ₩38,000

//Afternoon tea courtesy of Park Hyatt Seoul. All content and opinions expressed here are my own.//

A Look Inside Seoul's Shinsegae Luxury Department Store Food Market & Food Hall

When visiting department stores in Seoul, I skip the upper floors and head straight down to the basement where the food court and markets can usually be found. The fancier the department store, the fancier the food hall. Shinsegae, a luxury department store in Myrongdon, is the fanciest with a giant food wonderland sprawled out across their lower level.

There's a supermarket, completely pristine and looking more like set design than a real working grocery store. 

There is a fresh food/produce section in a big room, then in another section, packaged foods. The look of this section reminded me a lot of Le Bon Marche's food market in Paris.

But the real fun to be had is in the food hall. There are two Korean bakeries, a Dean & Deluca, and lots of different counters with high stools, making and selling food.

Counters served different specialties like dumplings, kimbap, or shaved ice. It'll take about a week just to sit and eat at each one.

Does this look a bit like Eataly? But with brighter light and less claustrophobic. 

CARB HEAVEN. Freshly baked bread on premise.

BUT, but, this was my favorite section. DESSERTS! The glass case loops all the way around and in each one, rows and rows of delicious looking treats.

How cute are these little animal sweets? 

I spent a good 40 minutes just walking the entire floor, taking in everything, so an afternoon can easily be spent eating your way through, which I'll definitely need to do on my next visit!

INFO: Shinsegae Department Store | 52-50 Chungmuro, 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea | +82.2.1588.1234

Posted on December 18, 2014 .

All the Korean Street Food I Ate in Seoul

The street food in Seoul is INSANE. Everything is freaking delicious and it's hard to stop eating since there's something new every couple of steps, especially in super touristy areas like Myeongdong. Street food is the ultimate cheap eats.

Starting with Egg Bread, which are just about $1. Soft, savory with a hint of sweetness, the pancake-like base is topped with a whole egg. I barely had to chew, it just melted in my mouth.

At Namdaemun market, my Korean friend Claire told me we HAD to get one of these hodduks, a fried Korean pancake, which is filled with clear noodles and vegetables. The location with the three women by gate 2 is the most popular and well-known by locals. There was a short line and when we got ours, it was piping hot. I dream of eating this again -- it was so good.

This hodduk is a sweet one, filled with sugar and cinnamon and also fried, which can mean only one thing. Fried = delicious. The best version of this is at Insadong where you'll see an orange tent with a long line.

The rest of the street food I had was at Myeongdong, where the streets are completely filled with food carts, mixed with the occasional sock cart. Side note: Socks are a great gift idea since they're cheap and the quality is pretty good.

Potato Stick. One potato that spirals around a stick, coated in batter, then deep fried. There are 3 optional toppings and I went with onion.

Churros are pretty popular and instead of sticks, they're shaped into a loop using one long piece, with each made in front of you. They're coated in sugar and cinnamon. The last time I had churros was in Paris, which were also excellent.

Roasted chestnuts, perfect for the fall weather. They come in a paper bag and are already peeled. 

These are Tteok-galbi Meatballs...on a stick. They have different sauces you can top the meatballs with. This one is on the SUPER pricey end at $3.

Pokki was one of my childhood treats in Korea and you would find women making and selling them in residential neighborhoods, but now you can only find them in tourist spots. They're made by melting sugar and a pinch of baking soda. They're then flattened and stamped with a simple design. If you were able to cut out the design perfectly, they would give you a free pokki for your efforts. I'm not sure if they still do this though but it's still fun trying to cut out the shape.

Goldfish Bread are crispy pancakes filled with sweet red beans. I found these miniature versions which were gone in two bites.

And last but not least, the 32cm ice cream. Looks great, tastes horrible. 

Posted on December 11, 2014 .

Dawon, A Korean Traditional Tea House in Seoul

Claire, a friend of mine that lives in Seoul, highly recommended Dawon and it did not disappoint. Off the bustling main street of Insadong is a traditional tea house in the courtyard of the Kyungin Museum of Fine Art. 

There's seating inside, but there are just two tables in the back that are set up so you can sit on the heated floor. Make sure you take off your shoes first!

Once seated, Claire accidentally knocked open the rice paper windows and we were treated to this gorgeous view of the courtyard.

It was a little tough ordering since I wanted to get EVERYTHING. Even though it was a little chilly, I opted for the iced cinnamon punch, a sweet beverage made with dried persimmon (I love persimmons.) and Claire ordered the hot Daechu (Ju jube tea), a popular drink at this tea house. All drinks are made in-house.

Iced ripe persimmons and an assortment of rice cakes were ordered for us to snack on. The rice cakes were just average, but I loved the frozen persimmons. We were given two fluffy traditional Korean rice snacks, which are one of my favorite treats.

After sipping on my sweet beverage, I munched on the dried persimmon sitting at the bottom of my tea, since apparently I can't get enough persimmon.

I had laid my coat on the floor and once we were ready to leave, I was happy to realize a perk of sitting on a heated floor -- my coat was all nice and warm when I put it on.

Upon leaving, I left the check sitting on our table, which is a no no, since you pay the cashier up front as you leave, which goes for every dining establishment in Korea. Plus, no tip to leave behind on the table, since you don't need to tip in Seoul. 

INFO: Dawon (Traditional Tea House) | 11-4 Insa-Dong 10Gil, Jongro-Gu, Seoul, 110-300 Korea | +82-2-730-6305

Posted on December 9, 2014 .

Afternoon Tea Review // The Shilla Seoul

Oh, The Shilla Seoul, you had me as soon as I sat down and was given a hand towel on a silver platter.

For this afternoon tea, Robyn and her financee Kåre, joined me since they happened to be in Seoul. The three of us shared an afternoon tea for two between the three of us (plus an extra pot of tea). (Thanks for joining me, guys!)

SETTING: ★★★
Afternoon tea is served in The Library, which I found to be a little too business loungey, and less froufrou that I like, but it's a lovely space with seating spaced nicely apart so it seems very intimate. The seating is extremely comfortable, to the point I didn't want to ever get up.

SERVICE: ★★★★★
Excellent service from start (hand towel) to finish (cake!). 

TEA & TEA SELECTION: 
Excellent! The tea menu lists not only the tea but the name of the company the tea comes from, the first I've ever seen noted. With a nicely curated selection from Fauchon to NINA'S Paris, this allows for two Earl Greys, each from a different company. 

I went with Birth, a black tea blend from Fauchon, which was delightful.

SAVORIES: 
Savories were all tea sandwiches for this course, and they were SO GOOD. Simple, but perfectly executed. I'm going to go far as to say these were the best tea sandwiches I've ever had. So full of flavor, and completely fresh with fluffy bread, I loved each and every one.

SCONES: 
Each person gets three scones each, which is really one too many, but I'm going to let that go since they brought these out after we ate the tea sandwiches to ensure that they came out nice and warm. 

I am however, going to knock off a star for serving clotted cream and jam from commercial mini jars.  I much prefer house-made jams served in tiny containers with matching spoons.

SWEETS: ★★★★★
Where do I start? The sweets course goes on, and on, and on! The three tiered tray held sweets at the very top. The macarons were really, really, good, rivaling Laduree and Pierre Hermes'. Everything was delicate and robust in flavor that I can't even say which was my favorite since they were all excellent.

Next up, these macaron sized treats made with meringue. Surprisingly light and soft, with a nice exterior crisp.

And just when we thought we were done, a dessert trolley with two cakes was rolled alongside our table. Did someone say tableside? I'm such a huge sucker for anything tableside. 

We got a slice of each, one raspberry based, and the other, a not-too-sweet chocolate with citrus layers. We were so stuffed by then we could barely get in more than two bites of these delicious cake slices.

OVERALL: ★★★★★
Come hungry! The Shilla Seoul's afternoon tea is not one to miss. It was an exceptional experience and one I highly recommend.

INFO: The Shilla Seoul | 249 Dongho-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, 100-856, Korea | +82-2-2233-3131
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: Daily, 12PM - 6PM
COST: ₩46,000

//Afternoon tea courtesy of The Shilla Seoul, a member of Preferred Hotel Group. All content and opinions expressed here are my own.//

Posted on December 8, 2014 .