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May 3, 2016

New “Expat Spotlight” Series Coming Soon to Seoul Searching

I moved to Seoul when I was a very young and naive 22-year-old. Now pushing 30, it recently dawned on me that I have spent the majority of my adult life in Korea. In fact, I became an adult in Korea.

I can say with certainty that this was probably the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Sure, living in another country long-term isn’t always a happy experience. Like anywhere, life has its ups and downs.

But in my transition to adulthood here in Seoul, I’ve learned so much that I am absolutely positive I would not have learned elsewhere. (See what I’m talking about in detail here.) In addition to invaluable life lessons, Seoul has opened up so many doors for me.

It has given me incredible opportunities to excel both personally and in my career and has presented me with once-in-a-lifetime experiences I won’t soon forget.

But I know I’m not the only one that has been granted such unique opportunities.

In fact, there was a video published last year by Roll The Dice Pictures that illustrates this. Check it out:

I’ve met a lot of people like this in Korea, each on their own quest to pursue their passions in a city that not only inspires, but encourages and supports that journey.

These stories have inspired me, and I’m fairly certain they’ll inspire you, too. Which is why I’m beginning a new series on Seoul Searching, entitled “Expat Spotlight.”

Once or twice a month, I’ll publish a story of an expat who has chased their dreams and found success in Seoul.

Stay tuned for inspiring stories, starting with a profile on Caroline Bryan, a friend and former roommate who is hoping to shake up the Korean lingerie industry with her own unique designs.

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.

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Seoul-Based France Gourmet Brings Charcuterie Straight to Your Doorstep

Here in Seoul, warm weather has finally made an appearance, which can only mean one thing—barbeque season is just around the corner.

No time is a better time than now to prepare for this season’s camping trips, rooftop parties and grill-outs, and finding the perfect meat should be the first thing on your to-do list.

And while Korea is famed for its beef, it’s not always easy to find affordable, high-quality cuts of meat. That is, unless you know about France Gourmet.

France Gourmet specializes in the handmade production of traditional French delicatessen and butchery. They’ve got everything you need for your spring and summer grilling get-togethers, from beef patties and tenderloin to lamb chops and fresh sausages.

All of the products are produced by French butchers in a workshop near Seoul. Particular care is given to raw products—only fresh Korean meat and natural casing are used for producing the company’s specialties. As such, France Gourmet is the go-to supplier for many of the city’s prestigious hotels, restaurants and well-known wine and craft beer bars.

And best yet, they deliver all of their tasty goods directly to your doorstep in a matter of days.

Recently, I tried out some of France Gourmet’s products for myself. When my order arrived at my door nicely packaged in a styrofoam icebox with plenty of ice packs to keep the contents cool, I felt a bit like a kid on Christmas.

I didn’t hesitate to start eating and immediately ripped open the Jambon de Paris, inhaling half of it with a bit of Parmesan on crackers. I tossed the remainder into a nice tomato-based pasta dish. It turned out to be the best deli ham I’ve purchased in Korea.

The Rillettes, which is similar to pate, made another tasty appetizer that disappeared seconds after I served it at a dinner party. Fortunately, I had set some of it aside to make paninis the following day. It was especially tasty with a few pieces of France Gourmet’s Tomme cheese.

Despite it being a Korean cheese (don’t knock it ‘til you try it!), the Tomme had a nice flavor, similar to a mild Asiago. The cheese was just as nice by itself with a glass of red.

Yet, my favorite item so far has been the Lamb Chops. These babies were tender, juicy and incredibly flavorful despite only using a little salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary for seasoning. And, for just under 5,000 won per chop, these were a steal! No more going to overpriced restaurants for meals I can now cook on my own!

Although I improvised and used my own recipes, France Gourmet’s website boasts serving suggestions and recipes completely in English so you can enjoy their products to the fullest.

I plan to reorder in the very near future to stock up for summer, but until then, I still have a 1 kilogram T-Bone steak (yes, you read that right!), a tenderloin steak and a pack of chipolatas I plan to put to good use on my camping trip this weekend. In fact, I’m quite certain the thought of consuming them is the only thing that will get me through the next couple days.

See France Gourmet’s full range of meat and cheese delicacies at their online shop.

More Information: France Gourmet

Website: Click here
E-mail: francegourmetkr@gmail.com
Phone: 031-719-2809

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
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April 26, 2016

Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa, Part 1

Psy may have put Gangnam on the map with his catchy songs and swanky style, but the now-famous district that sits just south of the Han River is a whole lot more than bowties and horse dances. And there’s no better place to get the true “Gangnam Style” experience than in Sinsa-dong, a quaint neighborhood that has become increasingly popular over the past couple years with the city's trendsetters, fashionistas and foodies.

In this three-part walking tour, I take you to some of the hottest spots, as well as a few of my own lesser known favorites, so you can explore the very best this stylish neighborhood has to offer.

A New You

Sinsa is also known for being the mecca of cosmetic surgery and is the go-to destination for those in Seoul for medical tourism purposes. Almost 400,000 people flock to the Korean capital for medical tourism purposes each year, as medical procedures are not only far cheaper than those in other countries, but Korea's medical facilities are state-of-the-art and medical practitioners are some of the most experienced in the world.

TengTeng Skin Clinic is one such example and is one of the more frequented medical facilities among international visitors, thanks to its friendly English speaking physician and staff. Located just outside the subway station, TengTeng offers both medical services and cosmetic procedures, the most popular being the Ellipse FotoFacial Treatments and Fraxel laser treatments.

Services are very affordable, with the doctor's consultation fee set at only ₩10,000. Many of the procedures, such as the chemical peels and facials, require no downtime at all, which means you can be in and out of the clinic with a fresher, younger face, and onto shopping in an hour flat.

Those seeking more invasive procedures such as rhinoplasty or breast augmentation can make an appointment at BK Plastic Surgery, a clinic that offers complete travel programs for medical tourists.

Shopping Spree

Perhaps the best known street in the area, and the perfect place to begin your Gangnam shopping spree is Garosu-gil, Sinsa’s gateway to fashion and beauty.

Stretching less than a kilometer in distance, this charming European-esque promenade teems with gorgeously decorated boutiques, modern dining spaces and romantic cafe terraces that provide picturesque views of Sinsa’s famous ginkgo trees that blanket the district in yellow each autumn.

Even more beautiful than the street are the people who hang out there, most of whom are dressed to the nines in the latest fashions, ready to strike a pose for the fashion bloggers and photographers that hang out in the neighborhood in hopes of getting a good shot.

Although Garosu-gil boasts international fashion franchises such as H&M and Zara, the street is better known for its smaller boutiques and vintage shops. One can, and should, spend an entire morning browsing the wares of these eclectic boutiques, as they boast enough eye candy to put even the casual window-shopper on cloud nine.

Be sure not to miss Spicy Color, three floors of modern and colorful Korean designs, and 9 Owls, a vintage boutique overflowing with fun styles from the 1970s and 80s, and an entire wall of Chanel bags that would make any girl giddy.

Also along Garuso-gil are a slew of “multi-shops”, design-centric stores that sell a variety of goods. A-LAND is a five-story multi-shop of unique, affordable wares; funky accessories, shoes and clothing are arranged by designer, most of whom are Korean, and appeal to the shopper looking for something unconventional, like studded army boots or gothic teddy bear keychains.

Just down the street, Louis Club offers a similar collection specifically for men. As the first men’s lifestyle shop in the fashion district of global brand Louis Quatorze, the three-story store offers Louis Quatorze products as well as European designer brands ranging from clothing to accessories. Additionally, grooming products for men such as skincare, hair products and cologne are available on the second floor.

Another classy menswear shop is Blackbrown, which offers an array of formal shirts, pants, ties and shoes in its elegant interior. Catering to men in their early 30s up to those in their 50s, the shop offers bespoke services where customers can be measured for tailored clothes, customized with the designs and fabrics they personally choose. Additionally, Blackbrown boasts a number of unique premade items by local and international brands.

Now that you've been pampered and picked up a new wardrobe, take some time to explore the neighborhood's best cosmetic shops, art galleries, dessert cafes and entertainment venues... all in Part 2, coming soon!

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Sinsa Station (Line 3, Exit 8).

Guide Map (Includes locations in entire Seoul Walks: Sweets & Shopping in Sinsa)

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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April 20, 2016

Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village, Part Three

After enjoying a nice afternoon sweet, get ready to explore Korea's history, as well as its contemporary culture, as you continue your tour of Heyri Art Village. (In case you missed it, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series for  more Heyri attractions.)

A Blast From the Past

Founded in 1976, leading publisher Hangilsa created a space for bibliophiles to bask in the beauty of great books. Today, that space is known as the Hangil Book Museum and boasts one of the more impressive book collections in the country, including various print collections by William Turner and 19th century French satirist Gustave Doré.

Also on display are the first editions of the literary works of Milton and Chaucer and designs by the illustrator William Morris. It’s easy to spend an afternoon here browsing literary masterpieces, wandering the book shop and taking in the idyllic atmosphere of the museum’s cafe covered in books, but there’s more to see.

In addition to the galleries and futuristic architecture, there is a kitschy, nostalgic appeal that blankets Heyri Village. It can be found in the quirky Toy Museum, the motnanyi (ugly doll) snacks for sale, the unexpected Elvis museum and the colorful facades of buildings that dot the community.

For a blast from the past, and a look into what Korea was like fifty years ago, check out the Museum of Modern History of Korea. Designed to resemble a neighborhood in the 1960s and 70s, the museum makes the visitor feel like he or she has actually traveled back in time, able to peek into homes and establishments common at the time. From the sounds of street vendors to the musty aroma to the detailed props, the museum does an incredible job at recreating an era. As you wander through the exhibits, you might find yourself yearning for another time and place.

Dalki and Dramas 

The Step building is another place to experience the quirks of the village. Dalki (Korean for "strawberry") is a famous red-headed comic character, and is the main attraction of the complex. Her face is plastered on the walls and featured in the products sold by the stores of the shopping area.

In addition to a Dalki indoor playground for tots and a Dalki Korean-style bakery, there are also a number of businesses that offer various do-it-yourself art experiences, like pottery painting and jewelry making. Adults and children alike pack into these small workshops to embrace their inner artists. Don’t miss the bathrooms, which feature Dalki’s friend Dongchimee, a character known for his swirly brown hat and his penchant to poop.

Adjacent to The Step is the I Like Dalki complex, a family-friendly three-story complex that includes a playground, gift shop performances and programs.

If you happen to be around at dinner time, grab a seat at (or at least take a peek in) Farmer's Table, which fans of “Boys Before Flowers” and “Gentleman's Dignity” will instantly recognize. Lavishly decorated, this dining space was actually the cafeteria of the K-drama, which is arguably the most famous in K-drama history. Photos of the F4 boys and Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun), the show’s protagonist, are hung throughout the place, and the food—a Korean take on Italian and American cuisine—isn’t bad, either.

Finish off your walking tour by stopping by Seoul Action School, formerly known as Stunt Academy, a center that has been training acting professionals since the late 90s. Established by director and screenwriter Kim Yeong-bin and actor Jeong Du-hong, it has since played an integral part in developing the Korean film industry by revitalizing action film.

Today, it continues to cultivate the acting, martial arts talents and action performance of both new and veteran actors and actresses. It was even featured in the famous sit-up scene in “Secret Garden” as Ra-im’s (played by Ha Ji-won) workplace.

Heyri is a unique destination and is in a state of constant planning and expansion. Construction is to be expected in a place like Korea and it’s unsure if the increase in size will change the dynamic of the community. Only time will tell, but until then, its nostalgia for the past, design for the future, oneness with nature, and all of its interesting quirks make it the perfect day trip from Seoul.

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Hapjeong Station (Line 2, Exit 2). Then, take bus number 2200 (runs every 15 minutes, station is immediately outside exit 1) to Heyri Art Village. (Tip: Grab a spot on the left side of the bus for better views of the DMZ.)

Guide Map (Includes locations in entire Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village series)

Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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April 19, 2016

Take a Taste Tour of Italy in Seoul at Italian Food Festival in Korea 2016

Italy may be on the other side of the world, but residents of Seoul will soon have the chance to taste all of the country’s regional specialities right here in the middle of Asia.

Now in its fifth year, the Italian Food Festival in Korea brings together the best Italian restaurants in Seoul to celebrate Italy’s most beloved dishes.

From May 1-31 each of the twelve participating restaurants will serve up an exclusive course menu including typical and authentic dishes, each from a specific region of Italy, prepared and selected by their own chefs.

Brera, located in Beotigogae near Itaewon, is one of the participating restaurants. Owned and operated by Giovanni Tamburrini, this no-frills joint packs in Korean and international diners alike, thanks to its eclectic menu, fantastic service and authentic atmosphere.

"Italian restaurants operating abroad normally serve dishes which are known worldwide, like pizza margherita, arrabbiata and carbonara. Yet, Italy has plenty of less famous dishes which are just as good as the popular ones," explained Tamburrini. "The Italian Food Festival gives Seoulites the opportunity to taste and enjoy the latter, having an authentic Italian experience without physically being in Italy."

Brera will serve up fare from Lazio (the region from which Tamburrini hails) during the festival, and their special menu will feature Rigatoni alla Gricia, an older, tomato-less version of the more widely known "amatriciana." The rustic dish boasts a signature sauce made of goat cheese and pork jowls—ingredients that ancient shepherds could easily stock, store and carry.


"It is fundamentally important to cook it in an iron pan, a secret that even reputable culinary schools have never known," Tamburrini told Seoul Searching.

Other participating restaurants include Allatorre in Hongdae, Casa di Noa in Yeonnam-dong, casAntonio and Vera in Itaewon, CIURI CIURI in Sangsu-dong, Cornerstone (Park Hyatt Seoul) in Samsung-dong, Eataly in Pangyo, kitchen 485 in Seogyo-dong, Peninsula (Lotte Hotel Seoul) in Sogong-dong, Restaurant8 (Grand Hyatt Incheon) in Incheon and Ristorante Eo in Chungdam-dong.

And, considering the set menus start at ₩55,000, you’ll be able to afford to eat your way through Italy without having to buy a plane ticket or suffer through a bout of jet lag. Just call your preferred restaurant to get details of the set menu and to make reservations.

Buon appetito!

More Information: Italian Food Festival in Korea

Dates: May 1-31, 2016
Contact: Italian Chamber of Commerce
Facebook: Click Here

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 
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April 12, 2016

Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village, Part Two

Continuing on from part one of the "Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village" guide, Seoul Searching explores some more of the cultural attractions of the quaint area, as well as the best places to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Music To Your Ears 

In a country known for K-pop, a classical music cafe might be the last place one would expect to find in Korea. Yet, Camerata Music Space is one of the more popular venues in Heyri, and it doesn’t take long to understand why.

Simply pay the entrance fee, which covers a beverage and a pastry, and prepare yourself to be hypnotized by the likes of Strauss and Mozart.

An airy, vast seating area bedecked with enormous speakers instantly transports guests to an acoustic paradise void of the worries and dilemmas of reality. A DJ even takes requests from customers, and ensures that the playlist is just as pacifying as Camarata’s atmosphere.

For a more hands on experience, the Museum of Musical Instruments of the World contains a rather expansive collection of both antique and modern musical artifacts from just about every corner of the globe, and is one of the few museums of its kind in all of Korea.

Each instrument on display, from the charango, a guitar made with an armadillo shell, to the African djembe drums, has a rather interesting story, and visitors are encouraged to try them out.

Sweet Design 

It wouldn't be a visit to Heyri without making a stop in one of the many galleries (most of which charge a minimal entrance fee), so pop into Gallery White Block across the street, and have a look around. The interior of the modern, three-story building is essentially, as its name suggests, a block with white walls, high ceilings and a lot of light.

Gallery White Block features an airy cafe on the first floor, as most galleries in the village do, with a view of the Heyri pond. The contemporary paintings, photographs and sculptures displayed throughout the museum’s six exhibition halls promise to be a highlight of your trip.

Another spot in the vicinity worth mentioning is the Chocolate Design Gallery, which isn’t a gallery at all, but has a great exterior that resembles a giant chocolate bar. Come here for deliciously rich hot chocolate, which varies in cacao content up to 85 percent. You can also add a shot of bourbon to your choco, which is especially satisfying in the winter, when chocolate sculptures are on display.

Rumi Cake, just down the road, serves up tasty tarts, cakes and pies, and offers a nice selection of unique beverages. Try the ginger latte, a spicy-sweet treat and a great afternoon pick-me-up before exploring the remainder of the village.

If you're not yet in a sugar coma, prepare yourself for K-drama filming locales, adorable characters and a museum where you experience what Korea was like in the 1970s. Find them all in Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village, Part 3.

And, in case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1 here to find out how to get to Heyri, as well as some of the area's other fun attractions.

To Get There: Take the Seoul subway to Hapjeong Station (Line 2, Exit 2). Then, take bus number 2200 (runs every 15 minutes, station is immediately outside exit 1) to Heyri Art Village. (Tip: Grab a spot on the left side of the bus for better views of the DMZ.)

Guide Map (Includes locations in entire Seoul Walks: Enchanting Heyri Art Village series)

Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized. 

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April 10, 2016

bbb International Friends Day to Offer Food, Music and Fun for All on April 30

It's finally spring! Looking for a way to get out and enjoy the wonderful weather? The bbb International Friends Day (IFD) might be the answer!

Held on April 30, the festival, which promotes harmony and goodwill, is open to both Korean and international residents, and is expected to be attended by approximately 3,000 participants who are eager to exchange their language and culture.

Held under the theme “One Fine Day With Friends and Family,” this year’s festival marks the ninth edition of the annual event, and will take place at Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon.

It will be hosted by BBB Korea, a government-affiliated NGO that offers 24/7 interpretation services and culture programs to create a bridge and overcome language barriers.

Included among the event highlights are the themed booths where you can experience various cultures. The bbb World Booth, for instance, gives participants the chance to participate in missions in multiple languages, try out a Mexican piñata and experience tanaka, a beauty treatment popular among the women of Myanmar. Or, fully enjoy spring at the Blooming bbb World Flower Festival, where you can pose among beautiful Bulgarian Roses and Swiss Daffodils.

At 2pm, the bbb Run Together 7km marathon will begin, and will be followed by the bbb Wonderful Concert (4-5:30pm), which will be MCed by Fabien Yoon, a French actor and model popular throughout Korea. Headlining musicians include Urban Zakapa, an R&B trio, and Peterpan Complex, a Synthpop group.

You'll also have the chance to sample a piece of cheesecake made by the one and only Chef So Bong Kim, and explore the nearby zoo after the event, should you chose to do so.

You can go alone, but the more the merrier! Your friends, family and loved ones are all invited.

More Information: The 9th bbb International Friends Day – bbb Wonderful Day

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016

Time: 12-5:30pm

Location: Seoul Grand Park (Click here for directions)

Admission: ₩20,000 per adult (includes T-shirt, snack package, concert admission, Seoul Grand Park Zoo admission, bbb mat); ₩10,000 per child (includes T-shirt, kid's snack package, concert admission, Seoul Grand Park Zoo Entry) (See website for cancellation policy.)

How to Register: Via the event website or at the Registration Desk on the day of the event.

Host: BBB Korea

Sponsors: Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism


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