[cafe] Maman Gateau

Most people know I have a special place in my heart for dessert... or maybe it's a special place in my stomach - well, either way, I love sugar. And most of the time, I'll bake whatever it is I want to eat, but sometimes (and bakers, chefs, you'll agree with me here) you just want to eat something made by someone else. Something really good.

To be honest, bakeries in Seoul aren't really my thing. I don't love the overly sweet whipped cream that covers everything and I especially am not a fan of the margarine-flavor that seems to get in all the pastries here. But this place always hits the spot for me.

I'm definitely a fan - Maman Gateau is a sweet little cafe/bakery in Gangnam (with a branch in Garosu-gil) and they specialize in baking their own bread. They even have a baking studio and a gallery upstairs.

The atmosphere is simple and minimal, but something feels like home whenever I walk in. The display cases are basic, but clearly they keep the customers coming, even in those back alleyways of crazy Gangnam.

But I go here for their cakes.

My favorite is their carrot cake (top right). It's not too sweet with a strong scent of cinnamon. I've come here twice on separate occasions where I only had room for one slice of cake and couldn't really shake the thought of ordering anything BUT this cake. 

People like to hate on Gangnam sometimes because it does tend to be more tourist-centric when it comes to food, but places like Maman Gateau remind me that if you really look, there are some gems out there. And even if I do move away from this neighborhood (more on that later), I know I'll be back. 

To head to the Gangnam branch of Maman Gateau, head to Gangnam Station (line 2) and head out of exit 11. Right before the CGV, turn right, going up a steep hill that goes diagonally. Pass the first intersection and take the second left. Maman Gateau will be on your right about 100 meters down. 

[food] Everest - Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan deliciousness

Korean curry. Japanese curry. Thai curry.

Those are the golden trio of curries you'll find normally on the main streets of Seoul. Delicious? Yes. But for me, these aren't curries. When you tell me about curry the first thought that comes to mind is the aroma of a good channa masala or a sag paneer... Indian curry is where it's at.

When I lived in Tanzania for a little while, I used to go on a weekly trek to Big Bite, an Indian restaurant run by a huge, bearded, grinning Indian gentleman, who had an appreciation for my big curry appetite. There is a large population of Indians in Tanzania as it also used to be under British rule. It's a bit of an odd place to have had authentic Indian fare, but it holds a special place in my heart.

Unfortunately, my first couple years in Korea, I didn't have the best experience with trying to find a good Indian curry. I tried loads of places. Some places came pretty close, but the curry would be visibly runny, or they would serve with white, short-grained rice, or heaven-forbid... kimchi.

But look no further, friends. because if you're craving Indian food in Seoul, there's only one place to go and that's Everest.

Everytime I go to this place, the scent and the atmosphere make me feel like I'm not living in a huge metropolis, but back in Arusha, having Mr. Big Bite's amazing dinners. 

Unlike a lot of Indian restaurants in Seoul, Everest won't set you back a million dollars. In fact, I went there yesterday and with 2 curries and 3 plates of naan, our total came to 24,000won. Roughly about 20 dollars. That's not bad considering we were stuffed silly. Curries are mostly around 8000-9000 with naan running from 2000 (plain). As I remember, garlic and butter naans were 2500 per plate. 

To go to Everest, go to Dongdaemun Station (line 1) exit 3, and walk straight out. You'll see an alleyway right by the makeup store Aritaum. Go down the alley and turn right. Immediately in front of you, you'll see a "장어" restaurant (an eel bbq restaurant). Everest is on the second floor of the fish place. 

Warning: Do NOT NOT NOT get confused, there's a restaurant nearby called Everest Curry World that is a different place!

[rambling + recipe] Peppermint Thoughts

Many of you don't actually know what I do for a living... I'm a freelance corporate instructor. Don't know what that is? That's ok, I don't get it sometimes either. But basically, it means different companies hire me for different amounts of time to teach their employees. Most of the time it's Business English, but sometimes it'll be interview skills or presentation methods, things of that nature.

For the past year I've been with an extremely well-known company (not giving any names but hint: you probably have some of their products within 100 meters of you RIGHT NOW), and today is the last day of my contract.

It's a weird feeling because as great as the company was, the commute was absolutely horrible. I'm on public transportation anywhere from 3-4.5 hours a day and really, with 10 hour days, that starts to take a toll on your body. The past year has been tough - especially with my insomnia, and maybe that's why I've been baking so much.

But it's bittersweet because the people I've gotten to know, the industry I've gotten interested in, and the skills I've further strengthened THROUGH my teaching... all of those have been such gems in my life. I've grown much more as a person through those bus rides and walks, and learned from people who have ruled the industry for the past two, three decades.

So as 2015 comes to a close, I don't know what to feel. It's a mix of swirls and whirls, and in that sense much like a peppermint. The taste sets of a trigger in your mind, and yet there's something so peaceful.

I don't know that there's a point to this... maybe in 2016 I'll have some epiphany about what it was all supposed to mean. But in the meantime, have some peppermints... and think about the swirl of 2015... how was it for you? What were your lows? What were your highs? And where did you find your peace?

And after that... eat some cookies. Because at the end of the day, we all have some room for cookies.

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

- 1 stick of butter
- 3/4 cup of white sugar
- 1 whole (preferably free-range) egg
- optional: 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract or some leftover crushed peppermint powder
- 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
- crushed peppermint (or crushed candy canes, whatever floats your boat!)


  1. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add in the egg and peppermint extract, beat well.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl (without chocolate chips!)
  3. Beat in the dry mixture to your wet mixture in increments - but don't overbeat. You don't want tough cookies (ha!)
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips
  5. With a cookie scoop (or in my case my handy 1.5 inch icecream scoop), portion out your cookies and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. During the (what seems like forever) wait, line a cookie sheet with some parchment paper. Lay out your cookie dough about 1.5 inches apart and make sure your dough is a bit flattened to make them bake evenly.
  7. Bake for 12 minutes, and as soon as they're out of the oven, sprinkle generously with crushed peppermint. Let cool completely on a wire rack. 
  8. Enjoy!

[life] Why I Run

I didn't start running until I was in my early twenties. In fact, I never liked exercising until college. After I broke up with my boyfriend my freshman year, I moped around until sophomore year when I decided to hit the gym and try out this thing people call "adrenaline."

I was hooked on the elliptical and the stationary bike but looked at the treadmills with a wry smile. I didn't even glance at the track. But my last year of college, I ran a mile around the track. And then two. But that was that.

I moved to Indonesia to teach full-time after graduating and through the stress I started to explore different ways to challenge my body. I started "training" for a 5k race and in 2013 I ran my first race.

3 years later, here I am with two half-marathons down and planning on running a full marathon before I turn 30. How time changes you.

People ask the same questions when I tell them I'm running a race.

The first is: Why?

The second is: What do you think about?

The first question is easy. It makes me feel strong. Like I'm in charge of my body. I can't really control a lot of things in my life but I can control each mile I run.

The second is a bit more complicated. I think about a lot of things. I think about life, I think about my problems... but if I'm being completely honest, I think about how tired I am. I think a lot of runners think this because let's get real - running hurts. Your legs hurt, your arms hurt, your entire brain is screaming, "Why???" (refer to question 1 here).

But the deeper meaning is what gets me. I think of how it hurts and why I do this, but the reality is, the further I go, the closer I get to the finish line. No matter how bad it is, at some point it's going to get better and things are going to be ok. Step by step it'll get there. And that's why I run.

[life + food] Oido trip

Well, at least this time I didn't take a few months to write another blogpost - it's only been a couple (?) of weeks, right?

Around August I came back from Cambodia (oh yeah, I went to Cambodia! More on that another time), and was really feeling the heaviness and the frustrations of the crowds in Seoul. My friends and I decided to go to the ocean to get away from the city.

Oido is on the west coast of Korea and is relatively close to Seoul. By public transportation it only takes a couple of hours. With a car, it's only an hour - very reasonable. I'm so glad we did, because although we got there later in the afternoon, we got there in time to catch the gorgeous sunset.

To get there, take line number 4 to "Oido" station, and take a cab to the Oido pier. You'll find a boardwalk and a whole row of clam-bake restaurants. Some look fairly tacky, some look tiny, and others look gigantic and admittedly a bit daunting. But trust me, all are delicious.

We got unlimited clams for 30,000won, which includes side dishes and (wait for it) unlimited booze. Dongdong-ju... aside from the ridiculous name, is a traditional alcohol which tastes a lot like the rice wine makgeolli but with a carbonated/fermented kick. It's delicious and pairs well with the saltiness of the clams.

After dinner, feel free to go back to the boardwalk. The view is still just as amazing, and there's a precious old lady who sells fireworks and talks to you about the greatness of life and love and other mysteries.

[life] It's that season again

I love this time of the year. The leaves crunch under my feet, and it feels like hot chocolate... you know that feeling. One of the perks of living in Seoul is that you actually get to experience Fall and Winter transitions and the boot-lover in me can't get enough of it.

I'm one of those crazy people that believes that as soon as it's November, it's an appropriate time to start thinking about Christmas. So this year, because I'm still on a high of "yay me, you do you" - I bought my first Christmas tree. Granted, it's not the biggest tree in the world, and yes it's artificial. But hey, it's a cute, little, humble guy - and it fits in with my tiny apartment quite well.

One of the reasons that this season is so special to me is that Thanksgiving and Christmas were always such warm holidays. I never got into Black Friday so Thanksgiving was purely about family and food and fellowship.... Also, Christmas in my family was never really about gifts, but about family and cake, and maybe a special trip somewhere. It was about the experience and understanding that we're here on earth for a purpose larger than just myself... it's about Christ. What better reason to celebrate than that?


So aside from my very vague "note to self" - why have I been MIA for the past 5 months? Well, maybe it was because I was in a relationship that ultimately ended, or that because of the aforementioned relationship, I was in a very lonely place... or that even during the relationship I was in a very strange place where I would look at my own reflection in the mirror and a) not recognize myself or b) really detest the person who was looking back.

Whichever of these it was, I'm finally in a place where I feel like myself again. Furthermore, I feel like I'm in a place where I can truly love myself again and look in the mirror and be like, "Hey, I know you. And I like you. Let's be best friends."

So that's me right now.

I never wrote this blog to get attention, but I started it because I wanted to document what was happening in my life. The food I ate, the adventures I went on, the trips I took - but I never really thought about documenting what kind of mental process I would go through in my twenties. But as I am well into the latter half of this decade now, I'd like to cover all bases. So let's go back to doing that, shall we?