TDH Updates: October 2015 – Artists Eric Davis and Chung Park


Artist Eric Davis


Artist Chung Park

The outdoor gallery continues to grow.  These two new works help tie in different corners of the property and add to the overall aesthetic of the house.  They complement the natural surroundings better than I could have imagined.  The pictures don’t really do them justice!

First, we have the Ruddy Kingfisher by artist Eric Davis.  Nothing about the subject matter or placement is random.  Anyone involved in the birding community in Korea (all 10 of us!) knows we’ve had a returning Kingfisher the last two summers.  It’s significant because it’s the bird that really got me to open my eyes and ears and look up at all the wildlife in the trees.  Bird watching also happens to be a great accompaniment to day-dreaming and sipping makoli, so ties in well with the other activities common around the house.

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TDH Updates: April 2015 – Artist Chung Park

 Photo by: Diaz

Seoul based artist Chung Park has left his mark on Jeollanam-Do, both literally and figuratively.  Having two exhibits under his belt at the new up-and-coming Salt Art Gallery located in Gwangju, he’s no stranger to the area.  We were happy to snag the “Beacon” piece at the first show and have it proudly on display in the entrance way of the house; it’s the first thing you see when you enter.

My increasing obsession with sotdae (솟대) is directly proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent in the countryside over the last couple of years.  They’re easy to write off as “ducks on a stick”, but like most things in Asian culture have a much deeper meaning and significance.  Disney, unfortunately, has done no favors for these sacred migratory birds in western culture.  In contrast, here’s an example of one of many quotes on the Wikipedia page for sotdae, “It was believed that ducks travel to the world beyond the Earth and act as a messenger between the physical world and the realm of the spirits.”  Damn. 

It’s no secret Chung is a friend of The Damyang House, so convincing him to bring his talents back down to Jeolla-Do once more for a mural at the house was an easy sell.  Finding time was another story.  Alas, the planets aligned and it all came together this past weekend.  Sotdae now guard both entrances of the house and add a splash of color to an otherwise empty outside wall space.  

It was an action packed weekend at the house and we’re happy to share all the gory details.  Special thanks to Jay Diaz for helping to both participate in, and document the madness.  

Day 1 – Chung gets started:

The wall
The sketch

 
 Not as easy at it looks. Photo by: Diaz

Chung working; Diaz documenting
 Photo by: Diaz

 
Photo by: Diaz

Johan (Salt Art Gallery) looks in.  Photo by: Diaz
 
 Photo by: Diaz

 Photo by: Diaz



 
 Photo by: Diaz
Day 2 – We went for a hike and left Chung to his work. 
Photo by: Diaz

Photo by: Diaz

Dinner!

The artist sleeps! Photo by: Diaz

Day 3 – Finished work.

Photo by: Diaz

Chung eats a well deserved kimche jiggae at 왕가녜.

Well deserved thank you’s to Chung Park for the mural, Jay Diaz for the photos and Riser for hosting…and the whole crew for putting up with me for the weekend. Boom!

Homemade Pizzas From Scratch

With so many healthy distractions around it’s easy to overlook something as standard as a kitchen.  Especially during BBQ season.  I can tell you, however, that after a decade plus of living in Korea our kitchen is far from standard.  The biggest benefit of remodeling this dump (see the before photos here) was that we could correct a lot of the “mistakes” the original designer made.  Believe it or not this kitchen used to be a separate closed-in room in the back of the house.

Besides having enough space for more than one grown human to cook in, the kitchen is also well stocked with all sorts of fun tools to help make you feel like you know what you’re doing.  You’d be surprised at what I’ve dragged back with me after my yearly visit to the States (cast iron sausage grinder for starters).  Here’s my collection of pizza tools, which although not 100% necessary, sure do make the experience infinitely more enjoyable and efficient (Butcher’s block, pizza cutter, pizza stone handle, pizza peel, pizza stone and rolling pin).

Not saying I have the best pizza in the world, but I will say it’s pretty damn tasty, always a crowd pleaser and crazy cheap compared to what the local “Italian” restaurants are charging.  Basic recipes and procedure below.  Consider it on your next visit!

Sauce
Sure, you could use spaghetti sauce, but that’s not impressing anyone.  Not to mention making it from scratch takes about five minutes and is nearly impossible to screw up.  Put these ingredients in the blender and give them a good mix before cooking it down (simmer for 45 min).  

1 can tomato sauce
2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
1 large onion (caramelized)
2 bulbs of garlic (roasted)
1 spoonful of tomato paste
1 spoonful of chopped oregano
1 spoonful of chopped basil
1 spoonful of red pepper flakes
1 spoonful of sugar
Healthy pinch of salt
Healthy pour of olive oil

Obviously the recipe is flexible so add/subtract to taste.  Roasting the garlic is also an extra, but I usually roast some to use as a pizza topping anyway and like the taste of it in the sauce.  Do yourself a favor and cut the ends off before drizzling them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, wrapping them in foil and cooking them for 35 minutes at 230 degrees.  Yum.

Dough
Every recipe for dough looks similar so don’t put too much thought into it.  The tricky part is remembering to make it in advance, preferably the night before. 

6 cups flour
2 1/3 cups water
20g salt
20g sugar
15g dry yeast
Healthy pour of olive oil

Mix it all together and let it sit, covered, in a warm place until it has time rise at least once. 

Toppings
This can be a bit labor intensive, so now would be a good time to get the rest of the team involved.  Plenty of knives and cutting boards around so give everyone a vegetable and have them start chopping while you man the stove and cook everything down.  It’s pizza so there are no rules.  Here’s my usual set-up:

Veg:  Onions, mushrooms, black olives, bell peppers, and spinach

Cheese:  Cheddar and mozzarella (mixed),  Goat cheese (separate)

Meat:  Homemade spicy Italian sausage (10,000won/250g), anchovies

 Here’s what my work station looks like~

Procedure
Once everything is organized you can start cranking out a pizza every 15 minutes.  Pizza by nature is a casual food (at least at my house!) so we usually eat while we cook.

Roll out the dough while the oven is preheating to the highest temperature possible, usually 250 degrees.  The pizza stone should be in the oven.

 

Sprinkle corn meal on the pizza peel (or dust with flour) to prevent the dough from sticking.  Gently transfer the rolled dough from the counter to the pizza peel. The dough should “slide” around on the pizza peel when you snap your wrist.  If it sticks you’re never going to get it in the oven!

Sauce the dough and add whatever toppings you want.  I usually keep it simple, never adding more than three toppings.  Do NOT add the cheese yet as it will typically burn if it’s in the oven too long.

When the oven is ready to go you simply need to slide the pizza from the peel to the stone.  Not always as easy as it looks.  It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of it.  Let the pizza cook for about 10 minutes (this will vary depending on how thick the crust is…these times are based on a thin crust).

When the pizza is nearly finished, grab the pizza stone handle and remove the pizza/stone and place it on the stove top.  Cover the pizza in cheese and return it to the oven for a couple of minutes.  When the cheese is melted it’s ready to eat.  Slide the pizza off of the pizza stone directly onto the butcher’s block, slice and eat while you start prepping the next pizza.

Enjoy!

Spicy Italian Sausage, Onion, Yellow Peppers, Mozzarella/Cheddar Cheese:

Spinach, Mushroom ,Onion, Goat Cheese:

“The Vegetarian” (Mushroom, Onion, Spinach, Bell Peppers and Mozzarella/Cheddar Cheese)

“Breakfast Pizza” (Homemade American Breakfast Sausage (sage), Onions, Sunny-Side Up Egg, Mozzarella/Cheddar Cheese)

“Garbage Pizza/Calzone” (Last pizza of the night…all the remaining ingredients!)

TDH Updates: 10-8-14

Seasonal changes:

  • Winter is approaching and with it comes the need to heat the house.  The cast iron fireplace was originally bought for it’s aesthetic value, but after realizing what it costs to heat a stand-alone house with ondol things quickly changed.  That 200kg beast in the photo above, when used correctly, does a much better and more efficient job of heating the house anyhow.  Guest staying during the colder months will be given a quick tutorial and are encouraged to turn down the ondol and enjoy a proper fire.  Honestly, you’d be crazy not to!

  •  Enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee on us.  Have a couple.  Free coffee is now available!  I bought that gorgeous stainless steel french press as a Christmas gift for my brother, but quickly ordered myself one after seeing how nice it was.  A little taste of luxury first thing in the morning is never a bad thing.  

  • We harvested the last of our summer veg (peppers anyone?) and replaced the planter box with some leafy greens and scallions.  Definitely the healthiest garden I’ve ever had the pleasure of maintaining.  Feel free to grab a few handfuls to eat with your BBQ. 

Bike’n Hike (VI): Naejangsan National Park

Destination:  Naejangsan National Park

Cycling:  120km
Hiking:  12km
Days:  2
 NaeJangsan National Park

The Bike’n Hike concept was born out of a failed backpacking trip to Jirisan National Park in February of 2014.  For whatever reason the logistics of that trip weren’t coming together so we opted to ditch the car, grab some bikes and head to a closer National Park.  That park was of course Naejangsan.  Since February we have done six Bike’n Hike trips to five of the surrounding National Parks…three of those trips were to this little park to the north.  It’s not by accident that we keep returning.

Traditionally these mini-bike tours have been a minimum of three days.  This was our first attempt to squeeze it all in a weekend.  Luckily we weren’t without willing participants.  Gibby and Jay were the first two to arrive from Seoul and after a bit of drama with cranky taxi drivers and unwelcome rain storms, we headed to a local 고기 집 to fill up on BBQ and booze and wait for the others.

“One Dish”
Once Sunghoon and John arrived in Gwangju we quickly met up and set off for The Damyang House,  which would serve as our home base of sorts for the weekend.  The slick (wet) roads prevented us from taking the scenic route through Mudeung National Park, but it was dark and getting late anyhow so it seemed a better use of time to head straight back to the house.  The ride itself is under 20km and less than an hour.  The rain had stopped at some point during dinner so we were able to avoid getting soaked on the ride home and had an opportunity to enjoy a campfire and the surrounding bamboo forest once we arrived. 
 Relaxin’.
The Damyang House

The next morning we scraped together a nice breakfast, got our gear in order and hit the road.

 The Crew
 Our Departure
Not everyone was happy about us leaving.
One of the (many) appealing aspects of the trip to Naejangsan is the roads that lead to and from the park.  They’re well maintained and largely underused so traffic is never really an issue.  There are two climbs during the 50km ride to the park entrance, but without them the day might be too easy.  Not to mention, the descent into the park makes it absolutely worth it!
 Moments before disaster…sorry Gibby!
A quick rest before the big climb of the day.

The climb begins.
We arrived at the park in under four hours, which gave us plenty of time to tackle the “hike” portion of the Bike’n Hike adventure.  The relatively easy ride to the park is quickly forgotten once you hit the park trails…they’re unforgiving and head pretty much straight up to the mountain ridge that circles around the park.  We were in a race with time (sunset) so completing the ridge hike was out of the question as it takes pretty much all day to hit all eight peaks.  It’s highly recommended if you have the time though…it’s an incredible hike.  Our goal was simply to get up to the ridge, grab a few photos and bask in the sense of accomplishment.  After four hours of cycling that’s easier said than done.  
 Getting closer.
 We made it!
Feeling accomplished!
 Taking a break.
 Our view.
 Exploring.
 Time to head back.
After climbing down the mountain we hopped back on our bikes and rode the 2km back to the park entrance where you’ll find a street of restaurants, a minbak neighborhood and a bit of nightlife (read: a CU Mart).  There are loads of cheap minbaks (about 10,000/person) clustered together at the top of the hill.  The lady at 촛불 is especially nice and her minbak sits highest up on the hill with a red sign.  You can’t miss it.  
   촛불민박
The restaurants around aren’t really anything to write home about honestly.  They are loads of them, but they oddly all serve the same menu.  I’ve been to five or six of them and can’t say anything really stood out enough that I’d recommend it.  If nothing else it’s a good place to catch your breath with some 동동주 and 파전 post-hike.  
We hit the CU after dinner for a few beers and made friends with some of the local wildlife.  As the temperature dropped and fatigue slowly set in we said goodbye to our new friend and got some much needed rest.
Praying Mantis
The next morning we headed towards the nearest town, Jeong-Eup, to get breakfast at a restaurant we found last time we were in the area.  This place is much cheaper and the food is a thousand times better…sadly I didn’t get a photo or even the name of the place!  I can say it’s on the right side of the road, just past the turnoff for road 21 that leads you back towards Damyang (and up the biggest climb of the day!).  The turn for road 21 isn’t clearly marked when heading north on road 49 towards Jeong-Eup so look for the big red love motel…this is where you’ll need to take a right!
Big Red Love Motel
The ride home to Damyang (or the Gwangju bus station) is about 70 or 80kms and starts off with a bang.  This climb through the valley is actually really enjoyable and while it’s quite long, it’s not as steep as some of the other climbs on this route (four in total).  And of course once you’re at the top, you’re met with a nice downhill to catch your breath.  The whole afternoon is filled with valleys and underused roads.  It’s gorgeous.

Selfie at the top of the mountain.
 Valley roads.
 Headed to Damyang.

Bike Trouble!
After fixing John’s bike, we turned off on road 29 which heads south through Damyang “city” and back to The Damyang House.  This road is scenic in its own right as it passes by Damyang Lake and the iconic Chuwolsan, which overlooks Damyang and can be seen from miles away.  Of course there’s another scenic valley to pass through as well.  
 Chuwolsan
Chuwolsan
Valley to Damyang.
We eventually ended up in Damyang and stumbled upon the Namdo Food Festival, which looked pretty damn fun, but was much too big of an endeavor to take on this late in the game.  We instead headed to one of Damyang’s famous Galbi restaurants which didn’t disappoint.  It’s embarrassing how much BBQ’d pork they gave us.  
 승일식당
 Always packed. 
Namdo Food Festival
At this point in the trip it sort of felt like someone hit the fast forward button.  Certainly one of the bigger down-sides to trying to accomplish so much in a two-day weekend.  I think we’d all agree that another night/day to soak it all in would have been nice.  Regardless, it was an action packed 48 hours and I look forward to doing it all again soon (Wolchulsan anyone?)!!!
*all photos by Sean Walker, Sunghoon Cho, Jay Diaz, John McDermott and Mark Gibby Johnson…thanks for sharing guys!

죽순 소시지 (Bamboo Shoot Sausage)

죽순 소시지 (Bamboo Shoot Sausage)
6km down the road (at the 고서 intersection) there is an appropriately named grocery store called ‘Local Food’ offering all the best and freshest foods the local farmers have to offer.  Bamboo alcohol, free range eggs and volume 10 kimches and namuls are all standard goods for sale.  The bamboo shoot sausage however, isn’t something I’ve seen before and honestly bought strictly for the novelty of the photo.  
The novelty obviously stemming from the fact that bamboo is EVERYWHERE around Damyang and the locals try their best to exploit it in every way possible.  These particular bamboo shoots (죽순) are no joke though…they’re expensive and people come from all over to try and poach them from the local forests.  I “chased off” at least two poachers this summer from our front yard.  They also grow extremely fast so you have to pick them at the right time.  This photo shows a bamboo shoot that grew 230cm in a week!
I clearly misjudged the sausage though.  They were delicious.  And as someone that routinely makes sausage, I can honestly say there were made by someone who knows what they are doing (natural casing and all).  At 7,500 for five they’re definitely pricier than what they have at the nearest Home Plus, but worth every won.