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Bali, day one

August 26, 2008

Day 1: Welcome to the resort (we got there last night, but I didn’t think that would be especially interesting)!

It was BEAUTIFUL! Right on the beach, you could relax on one of the many bed-like structures, swim in the lagoon, go to the spa or work out. The first day I went for a run. First, I just ran around the resort itself, then ran along the beach to the jogging path. I ended up at the gym (how convenient! I thought), so I worked out there and weight lifted. By the time I had finished I realized that I was totally lost! It turned out I had run all the way to another resort (they’re all next to each other) and worked out in their gym… I hope they never find out.

I found my way back, showered, and after much poking and prodding, I finally dragged my parents out of bed and down to breakfast. I LOVE BREAKFAST BUFFETS. I know most people think they’re a waste of money, but (aside from the fact that we weren’t paying for any of this) since I happen to eat more for breakfast than I do for dinner, I definitely get my money’s worth…

After devouring my body weight’s equivalent in Bircher muesli, strawberry smoothie, ginger tea, yogurt, and fresh fruit, I needed some time to digest. I lay down in one of the beach chairs and studied my French grammar book, which my mom bought me so I can skip into AP French when I get back. The problem is, it’s designed for Chinese students learning French, so all the explanations are in Chinese… which I can read, mais c’est beaucoup plus difficile de comprendre que le francais, et comment est-ce que je peux améliorer mon francais si je ne comprends pas les expliquations dans le texte?

Afterwards, I went for a swim in the ocean… unfortunately, you couldn’t swim far out at all and the area was extremely enclosed. It ended up being fine, because I swam horizontally along the beach. It ended up being an intense workout because I was swimming at high tide and the waves were huge! I swam to the end (a wall) and back, and it took me more than half an hour. Wow. I rinsed off and swam around a little bit in the “pool.” There was no way to really train for swimming while I was there, since there were no lanes or deeper areas, but it was refreshing and I helped my mom improve her strokes a bit.

I got a pedicure at the spa while my mom got an herbal coconut scrub… I really wanted to get this chocolate exfoliation treatment, but I’m still a little squeamish about being naked.

We had lunch at the resort, which was mediocre, but I was hungry and the weather was gorgeous, so it didn’t matter.

She got a salad with shrimp and scallops, and I got a very Pan-Asian dish of noodles, greens, seafood and bean sprouts.

It was all in all a very relaxing day. We figured it was okay to stay in the resort for the first day as long as we got to explore Bali the next day. My dad was in the meeting with Mr. Tek at a very special café. I’m sure that you’re familiar with the fact that Indonesia has some of the best coffee in the world (Java, hello? Where do you think the word comes from?), but this type of coffee is extra-special… and a bit on the gross side, when you think about it. Basically, some kind of wild cat eats the coffee beans, excretes them, and it’s only till the beans have been digested that they are then made into coffee. But the coffee! I didn’t go to the café, but Mr. Tek liked the coffee so much that he bought boxes and boxes of it ground in packages (it would cost $100 for a tiny little baggie of it in the US!), along with his own coffeemaker, and he would drink it every time he took us out, which was almost every meal. That’s coming up, so I’ll describe the coffee later.

I don’t remember exactly how it is, but he somehow knew the people in charge of the café (I think it’s because he owns his own café in Shanghai?), so we went out to dinner with them, along with the director of one of the Singapore art museums. The café-owner was Indonesian and in the coffee trade as a family business, but his wife, Sheryl, was Californian and one of the most gregarious, wonderful people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. The restaurant we went to, a French-Mediterranean one, was one of their favorites. Of course I was skeptical about going to a non-Asian restaurant when I could be sampling Balinese delicacies, but the food was excellent, so it definitely wasn’t worth complaining.

The atmosphere: sophisticated yet comfortable. We dined al fresco, facing a vast rice field. Everything was lit by candlelight (the restaurant gave us a flashlight) and it felt super romantic.

Instead of bread, the restaurant sent us a plate of little cheese crackers. I wouldn’t call them crackers though—in the tiny nibble I took, they were like a cheddar cheese pie crust… flaky and sinful.

The wine we got was great! I’m no wine connoisseur, but I knew it was worth drinking. Red wine has really started to grow on me. The first kind, a 1997 Chateau Ducus, was sweet, with deeper, rounder notes, whereas the second, whose name I forget because I can’t read my mom’s handwriting, was much more sour and dry. I preferred the second.

Appetizers: Mr. Tek ordered escargots for all of us. I debated and debated whether to eat them or not, since I eat shellfish and mollusks. I decided just to taste it, and like everyone in the entire world has told me, it just tasted like garlic butter.

I ordered a “chilled vegetable lasagna.” It really caught my eye, since I had no idea what it would be like. I was afraid it would just be a huge hunk of refrigerated lasagna, the cheese gone rubbery and chewy, but it was nothing like that. I think it was even vegan. Layered between the wanton-wrapper pasta sheets were slices of grilled zucchini, eggplant, and yellow peppers with balsamic. The whole thing was topped with pumpkin seeds, cilantro, sprouts, and fresh tomato. It was so refreshing—reminded me a lot of Green Zebra (UGH, I AM SO MAD AT HOW THIS PHOTO CAME OUT).

My mom got the crab napoleon, which, like my lasagna, was deconstructed. Instead of buttery puff pastry layers, there were crispy strips, sandwiching soft but chewy crab, all doused with an even more butter mushroom sauce. It was too rich for both our tastes, but still—a little goes a long way.

It’s a little bit harder to describe the other dishes since I didn’t try them, but I’ll try. Sheryl got the salmon carpaccio, which seemed pretty standard, only with sesame seeds on top.

Her husband ordered Caesar salad, which wasn’t actually on the menu, but I guess at these types of restaurants they can change orders around for something like that.

Michelle, Mr. Tek’s wife, got a salad with grilled artichokes, arugula, romano, sun dried tomatoes, and tapenade. Looked good, but I could make that at home.

Mr. Tek and the Singapore art director both ordered cream-based soups that I was glad not to have ordered: one zucchini and one mushroom. They looked pretty much the same to me. I hate creamy soups, especially mushroom. I always feel like I’m drinking sauce or gravy, and I’m bored of the texture within minutes. Oatmeal is not baby food, no matter what my mom says—at least there’s some chew there.

Lastly, my dad ordered tuna tartare, which I stole a bite of. It was difficult, since we were sitting at opposite ends of the table.

Main courses: I had a really hard time deciding. I definitely wanted a fresh piece of fish, but most of them came with buttery sauces and I didn’t want it to be too rich. Finally, I chose the ocean trout, which turned out to be a great decision: it was drizzled with a tomato beurre blanc, but just enough to swipe the vegetables and fish through to give them a little flavor. The fish was like salmon in color and texture, but with a milder taste. Accompanying it were juicy discs of balsamic-drenched sun dried tomatoes, grilled peppers, zucchini slices, and zucchini blossoms. I especially loved the contrast of the sweet tomatoes against the fish. I would have thought the tomatoes too overpowering for fish, and they probably would have been with a white fish like halibut or cod, but they were the perfect compliment.

My mom was disappointed with her choice, which was a daily special of John Dory with mushroom sauce and a scoop of what seemed like spinach quiche filling. The mushrooms were good on their own, but as a side dish for fish, especially tasteless white fish, it seemed a strange decision on the chef’s part… Mushroom sauces, especially dark, robust ones, are supposed to go with red meat, aren’t they?

Sheryl ordered an appetizer as her main course, which I used to do a lot before I ate seafood. Hers was wonderful, and so rich that I don’t think I could eat it in an entrée-sized portion: artichoke ravioli with scallops and shrimp in a lemon butter sauce. Since I adore artichokes and scallops above all, I was really tempted to order this. Luckily, she let me try it and the textures and tastes were great: the scallops and artichokes were chewy and sweet, which went perfectly
with the tart, creamy sauce.

Three other people ordered duck breast (sorry, I have no idea what came with it).

Two other people ordered steak. It’s funny, meat just seems so heavy and unappealing on most occasions, especially on a gorgeous island like Bali where seafood is impeccably fresh. Sometimes I doubt this whole “vegetarianism” thing—if I eat fish, I guess that makes me a pescetarian, but I hope I can still try to help preserve eco-systems and not contribute constantly to the over fishing dilemma. But we ate a LOT of seafood on that trip. So much that I’m sick of it now…. But alas, it was so good at the time.

OH MY GOD! I almost published this without adding dessert. How could I? Will you forgive me? Everybody ordered soufflés except for me, although I didn’t realize it at the time. In fact, soufflés are possibly my favorite dessert (the chocolate soufflé at La Sardine is to die for), but I didn’t want to eat an entire one and I knew my mom wouldn’t eat all of hers. Some people ordered chocolate and some ordered raspberry. The chocolate was good, but I actually preferred the raspberry. The flavor was mild, which really allowed you to taste and feel the eggy texture
of the soufflé. It was softer and less cake-like than the chocolate, and it came with a raspberry sauce. The chocolate soufflé came with a sauce of melted bittersweet chocolate (otherwise known as the hot chocolate at Angelina’s), but I prefer the sauce at La Sardine, which is more sinful: cream with vanilla bean specks. Ah, soufflés, how I love you… when my mom’s came, she had to massacre it before cutting it the right way. You should make a little X in the center, then quickly, before it starts to deflate, pour in the sauce and let the interior soak it up like a sponge. My mom stuck her fork in the side, maiming the beautiful soufflé… philistine.

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