Thank you so much to all of you who sent me birthday wishes that I wasn't able to respond to via general facebook update (Liv! Gwynna! Jess!) - I swear, the reason I haven't responded yet is not because I spent that week curled up in a ball crying for my mommy (although she DID fly all the way out to Seoul, whee!) - it was because I was eating.
The festivities started the Friday before, when 효천 took me out for dinner. Mmm, nothing says "30 is the new 20!" like feasting on pork fat:
The next night we went out to dinner in Itaewon. I had been craving falafel. This really hit the spot:
Then we walked to a 막걸리 place which had a gazillion different kinds of rice wine. The weather was really warm that day, even at night - it was nice being able to walk around without some sort of crazy insulating down jacket.
The bar had a very extensive hand-written menu, describing each type of rice wine in great detail. It can be tough to decide, so they have a sampler where you can choose 5 for 2,000 won. Ridiculous. I couldn't even finish this:
I ended up trying a whole bunch of different rice wines, including buckwheat, 5-grain, and corn. I think the real winner though was the yogurt cocktail. It pairs nicely with chocolate cake:
I stumbled home at the very age-appropriate time of 11:30, only to be met with the disapproving clucks of my grandmother, who thought I was out VERY VERY late.
The next day I reveled in the fact that my advancing age means no 막걸리-induced hangovers! Then my aunt came over to buy me a birthday dinner. We went to a sashimi place:
What you don't see in this picture are the 350 side dishes that arrived prior to the sashimi, including corn gratin, california rolls, clam soup, squash soup, grilled mackerel, salad, clam, scallop, and sea squirt sashimi, poached skate, and who knows what else. After we were done with the sashimi, they brought out a huge pot of spicy fish stew. I spent the next day still feeling full.
Then my mom came! Yay! On my actual birthday, I had a meeting in Sinchon, so we walked to Hongdae afterwards. It was 4:30, but we were both hungry, so I took us to a place we could get some noodles. We split this salmon dish and a "caviar" cream pasta:
Much to my chagrin, my mom had considered that a snack and wanted to go out again to dinner later. I was still so full so we settled on a yummy Costco dinner of rolls and cheesecake:
Pretty much the perfect way to end the day.