A BIRTHDAY LUNCHEON AT THE EXCLUSIVE KEE CLUB
What a special treat to celebrate my birthday in this exotic city! My friends insisted on having a small ladies’ luncheon so we could really gab.
They suggested the exclusive members-only KEE Club, the local branch of the long-established Hong Kong club, situated in the historic 1920’s Twin Villas that is a luxury oasis. We loved the Club’s light, bright atmosphere (great for lunch) and its central location.
We began our celebration in the cozy bar area overlooking the garden, and then headed to a private dining room for a three-course sit-down luncheon that lasted all afternoon — so unlike New York, where you eat and run.
A Chinese astrologer read our cards, and since all the women left with smiles on their faces, I assume everyone got good news. Certainly mine was off the charts—the nicest present I could have received.
COMMANDERIE DE BORDEAUX’S GOURMET DINNER
I was among the lucky guests when the Shanghai chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux — one of 66 such organizations around the world—enjoyed a gourmet wine dinner in a private dining room at Hyatt on the Bund.
This was the latest and largest wine event organized by businessman and wine-lover Andrew Bigbee, Le Maitre-Shanghai Commanderie de Bordeaux. Last year, the Shanghai chapter tasted over “80” Grand Cru Classe Chateaux.
I was the guest of Jennifer Yan, a Harvard-educated venture capitalist who is a native of Shanghai. She knows I love food and wine.
The theme of the event was “16 dishes/sweet 16,” and only sweet Sauternes and Barsac, 16 of them, were served. A large group of French vintners flew to Shanghai for the occasion.
Christopher Sadones, GM of Shanghai’s Park Hyatt, the world’s tallest hotel (at least for now) consulted with the chefs on the menu for this important evening.
Though Sauternes are traditionally served as an aperitif, I was surprised to discover how wonderful they are paired with spicy Chinese cuisine. To think I’ve been drinking beer all these years instead!
In February, Vinexpo/IWSR reported that the Chinese imbibe 25% of all liquor consumed worldwide but just slightly over 2% of the wine—and the wine drinkers of Shanghai account for half of that.
Recently there has been an increase in the number of specialty wine boutiques in Shanghai, and I expect more and more chateaux owners will be arriving to woo this potentially large market.
A SHANGHAI THANKSGIVING AT JEAN-GEORGES RESTAURANT
For my first Thanksgiving in Shanghai, I decided to host a holiday dinner for my international group of friends, many of whom were unfamiliar with this American tradition.
I wanted to offer them the best, so I planned my party at the award-winning New York chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Shanghai restaurant. His first signature eatery outside Manhattan, this branch is located in Three on the Bund, a 1916 neo-classical building.
Yes, the restaurant is known for its French cuisine, but the chef on this occasion was American-born Eric Johnson, so I knew he’d understand just what was called for.
I owe thanks to the French General Manager, Jacky Goergler, for helping me find just the right setting for an intimate “family dinner” feel—an alcove off the bar. I decorated the long table with a holiday theme: seasonal colors, fall flowers, candelabras, votives, and cornucopia.
After French Champagne in the bar area, we sat down to an elegant version of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner: Warm Mushroom Ravioli with Parmesan Broth and Herbs; Slow-Cooked Salmon with Celeriac Puree and Black Truffle Vinaigrette; Roasted Organic Turkey with Chestnut-Sourdough Stuffing; Cranberry; and dessert tastings. To accompany the menu, I chose California wines, in support of my friends in Napa Valley.
My guest list reflected how international a city Shanghai has become. I was joined by friends from mainland China and the U.S. as well as Taiwan, France, Germany, England, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Japan.
In my toast, I remarked that though we were from different countries, our all being in Shanghai showed we had kindred spirit.
SUNDAY BRUNCH AT THE WESTIN
Jhenny and Elijah Widjaja invited me to what is considered one of the “World’s Greatest Brunches” at the 5-star Westin Bund Center Hotel, one of Shanghai’s landmarks. Named by Condé Nast as one of the top Asian hotels, the Westin is well known for its Banyan Tree Spa and its “Heavenly Bed.”
Everyone, especially expats, loves to come for the extraordinary Sunday buffet and a lovely afternoon of culture with music and dancing.
Since Elijah Widjaj is the Westin’s chairman, we enjoyed our own private dining on the mezzanine overlooking the lobby below. Our Sunday brunch companions included visitors from Milan—Lizette Pozzinet; her son, Charles Pozzinet, working in Shanghai; and Patrizia Pontremoli, whom we all had met at a dinner at Yue-Sai Kan’s home.
As we dined on an extravagant array of fresh seafood and tasty Chinese delicacies, we watched below where acrobats, ballet and tango dancers and magicians performed. For the music lovers, a twelve piece string orchestra played while sopranos and altos sang all-time favorite arias and musicals.
What a lovely Shanghai sendoff! Next day I was packing to return to New York City for Christmas holidays.
When December arrived in Shanghai, I was amazed to see Christmas decorations all over the city and Santas everywhere. Was this just for the foreigners? Or, as in the U.S., were the holidays becoming just another excuse for consumerism?
My Chinese friends explained that Christmas isn’t a religious occasion here. But the young people, influenced by Western culture, use the holiday as another reason to go out and celebrate.
For my own celebration, I departed Shanghai and headed for New York City. I
can’t think of a better place to spend Christmas!
Photographs by Jeanne Lawrence.