Over the weekend

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beyond where to look for it on a map, I don’t know much about Bulgaria, though after last night, I also know that it has good Merlot. (Beyond the assertion that I like it, I also don’t know much about wine).

Over the weekend, I flirted with Bulgaria twice without intention. Last night I tasted its food in Itaewon, a district in Seoul that is equally loved and hated by Koreans and foreigners. Regardless of which camp you belong to, there’s no denying that Itaewon boasts a handful of damn good restaurants. It was Mike’s birthday, and we were celebrating. We ate a stack of cold, sliced zucchini that had been sautéed and coated with dill-flecked sour yogurt, red-centered beef tenderloin dressed up with a thin spread of mint jelly, pork meatballs and potatoes deliciously, unapologetically baked with enough cheese to make a grown man cry, and chicken filled with bacon, bathed in a bright tomato sauce, and affectionately named ‘The Pile Princess.’ We drank a fruity, dry red wine from Bulgaria, one of the only products that the restaurant imports from its birth country, and we didn’t leave until well after we realized that we were the only guests still there.

Today I heard music from a Bulgarian symphony with my friend, Helen. The men wore black, the women wore stage make-up, and the maestro expertly guided the visiting orchestra through a short list of classics while the spotlight made his bald patch even shinier. Bows danced across strings and fingers fluttered over keys as fast as a hummingbird’s wings. How many hours of collective practice were sitting up on that stage, I wondered. Enough to round out each individual sound into one perfectly functioning unit. Music, in the flesh, is as gratifying as a home cooked meal. And everything is better with wine.