Monday, July 20, 2015

The Great Grocery Experiment

One of my biggest concerns before moving to Shanghai was how I was going to grocery shop without a car.   I had nightmares about walking down crowded streets, juggling bags of unidentifiable food.  I am happy to report that grocery shopping has gotten MUCH easier since I first stepped foot in Shanghai.  Gone are the days of crying in Carrefour.  

These days, I do the majority of my grocery shopping online!  Online grocery stores and meal services are popping up all over the city.  For this post, I decided to share my favorite online grocers, and share the sites for some new grocers.   

Here’s how this post went down.  I made a list of ten items that I usually purchase from online grocery stores.  I checked for availability and prices on four sites, City Shop, Epermarket, Fields, and Kate and Kimi.  Then I ordered a random assortment of groceries from these sites.  None of these stores knew that I was going to review them, so they provided me the goods and customer service that any consumer would get.  During this time, I was also was presented with the opportunity to review, a Blue Apron like service that delivers meals that provide the feeling of a home cooked meal without the irritating prep work.  (They sent me two complimentary meals to fix in exchange for my thoughts.)

So here’s how it went…

Their Prices:

Here’s what my food looked like when it arrived:
Why I use them:  I have been a loyal Epermarket customer for about six months now.  I have no complaints.  The only time they mixed up one item in my order, the situation was corrected in 30 minutes.  Their produce is always top notch, their meats are tasty, and they deliver our dog food and laundry detergent.  I especially appreciate their large selection of cheeses!

Epermarket also has a great customer loyalty program.
If you spend a set amount of money, Epermarket will throw in some free gifts like this mini fondue mug or funky beer glass.  Sometimes they also stick in free food to try!  They also have a great store credit program; the more I shop, the more free money I get to spend!

Their Prices:

Here’s what my food looked like when it arrived:
This is my Cityshop Thanksgiving from 2012.
Why I use them:  I have to admit, I don’t use City Shop very much.  They do provide a big selection of groceries, but I can find more on other sites.  They do make a fantastic Thanksgiving feast that I order for my annual friendsgiving.  I haven’t ever had any problems with their delivery services.
Cityshop is my go to place for turkey day!
Their Prices:

Here’s what my food looked like when it arrived:

Why I use them:  While I have used Fields in the past for one Thanksgiving, this was the first time I used them for regular groceries.  I have to say I was impressed with the quality of the food, and the speed with which my food arrived.  (I ordered my food at 4:55; it was at my doorstep at 6:30 the same day.)  While they didn’t carry some of my typical grocery items, they do have a great selection of produce and meats.  I especially appreciate how they carry large bags of rice.  (I no longer have to wrestle 5kg of rice down the street.)  I will also be reordering their salmon!

Their Prices:

Here’s what my food looked like when it arrived:
I appreciated the hand written letter welcoming me to the Kate&Kimi community!
Why I use them:  Prior to this post, I had never used Kate & Kimi.  If you are looking for locally produced goods, Kate & Kimi is your place to shop.   My dogs LOVED the locally produced dog treats that I bought from Angel and TL, and I thoroughly enjoyed my muffin from Sweet Ever After.  I also had fun cooking with my tri colored mini carrots and mixed color cherry tomatoes.  Shopping on their site feels like shopping at an online farmers market.  

I REALLY appreciate the ability to buy safe, healthy dog treats for the fur kids.  

I will definitely be a return customer!

Their Prices:  Meals range from 18 RMB to 199 RMB (For a family sized meal)

Here’s what my food looked like when it arrived:
Make sure you are home when receiving the box.  The contents need to be refrigerated. 

Also, don't order too many meals at once.  The meals need to be prepared within 48 hours to ensure freshness.
Why I use them:  I am lazy.  I don’t like trolling for ingredients and peeling vegetables before cooking.  Xinweicook eliminates these nuisances. 
Ever since I visited Thailand, I've wanted to make Tom Yum soup.  This kit had all of the ingredients for the soup premeasured.  All I had to do was chop and follow the enclosed directions. 
Unfortunately, the directions in the box were in Chinese, however I was able to quickly find the instructions online.  
The fresh ingredients smelled incredible!

The soup tasted just like the one I fell in love with in Thailand.  
I will more than likely use Xinweicook again the next time I want to cook Tom Yum soup, or want to try a new dish in the kitchen.  The ingredients are fresh, the recipes are relatively easy, the prices are reasonable, and the results are tasty. 

Where do you grocery shop online?  Leave your recommendations in the comments section below!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Independence Day Cantonese Style

When I think of the Fourth of July, I usually think of food, friends, and fireworks.  This Fourth of July, we were in Hong Kong so we decided to celebrate America’s birthday by eating good food, visiting old friends, and visiting Tian Tan Buddha.

When we arrived at Ngong Ping village, I saw that we were 12,968 KM away from New York.  I immediately felt a little homesick.
Before we hiked to Buddha, Chris and I stopped at the 711 in the village to pick up some water.  The water helped us climb in the 103 degree heat index.
I have to admit, I wasn't looking forward to climbing the 268 stairs to the base of the statue.   
Luckily this guy coached me up to the top. 
The 250 metric ton Buddha was quite impressive.  
Built in 1993, the statue symbolizes the relationship between man and nature. 
After I cooled off a bit, I put on my American flag scarf for a patriotic selfie. 
While we posed for pictures, many folks wished us a Happy Fourth of July!
Fortunately, the climb down was easier than the hike up.  I resolved that I would hit the gym on a regal basis after our climb.
After climbing Tian Tan Buddha, we took a quick look at the Po Lin monastery.
Three years ago, the monks opened the Grand Hall of 10,000 Buddhas to celebrate the 20th birthday of the statue.  I was expecting something like I saw in Japan, but this was different.
The porcelain Buddhas were so tiny!!
Photographers aren't allowed to take pictures in the temple, but they may take pictures from the outside.  Thank goodness I brought my zoom lens!

After our visit to the temple, we headed back to our hotel via a cable car!  The trip included a nice arial view of the Hong Kong airport.
We opted to pay a little more to ride in a gondola with a plexiglass floor.  The view was well worth it!
After our visit with Buddha we had a great time catching up with one of our Shanghai friends, Grace, over some Dim Sum.
One of the plusses of living abroad is the ability to visit friends all around the world!   
Grace took us to a really yummy restaurant in the Mong Kok area.  We had a delicious meal of dumplings, 

Fried shrimp wraps, 
and my favorite, cheesy chicken pies.
After dinner, we took a quick peek at one of the women's night markets. 
While I did miss the US on her special day, we did have a great time checking out Hong Kong!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Amusing Hong Kong

I am an amusement park junkie.  While in China I have missed the intoxicating mixture of roller coasters, junk food, cheesy musical performances, and fireworks that only a theme park can provide.  Many local parks have small roller coasters and plenty of junk food, however I just haven’t been brave enough to take a ride.  While I am too chicken to ride the local attractions, I had wanted to make a trip to Hong Kong Disney for a day of rides, fun, and a little magic.  So for my birthday, we returned to Hong Kong for an amusement park extravaganza!

Color me happy...we're going to Disneyland!
Hong Kong Disney is a lot like Disneyland in LA and the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Attractions like Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, and the Jungle Cruise made me forget I was in Asia for a few hours.

The area outside the gate reminded me of the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. 
After we walked in the gate, I was so surprised at the size of Sleeping Beauty's castle.  It was considerably smaller than the castles in other Disney parks. 
We had a great time visiting such Disney classics like It's a Small World,

the Carousel,

the spinning teacups,
and the flying Dumbo ride.
Even though I felt like I was in the US, some of the attractions reminded me I was in Hong Kong. 
When we arrived at the park, we were greeted with a sign banning selfie sticks.
Some of the rides, especially in the Toy Story area, seemed a little more thrilling than the rides I saw in the American Disney parks.
Haunted Houses in Asia aren't considered fun.  Many folks in these areas take ghosts and worshiping ancestors very seriously, so there were no ghosts in Mystic Manor.
Instead imagineers developed a ride with enchanted artifacts.  
While there were many western dining options in the park, we chose to eat dinner at the Plaza Inn.  The eight course Cantonese meal was yummy.

Our mango pudding desert had ears! :)
That evening, we thoroughly enjoyed Mickey’s Paint the Night Parade.

The LED floats representing different Disney Musicals were so pretty!
Mickey performs a techno number to wrap up the parade.
After the parade we were exhausted, so we headed back to the Disney Hollywood Hotel for a good night’s sleep.

While at Disney, we stayed at the Disney Hollywood Hotel.  The Hollywood Hotel had all of the comforts of a Western Hotel, and a really yummy breakfast with Mickey that was included in our room package.

The hotel felt like it was taken right out of LA in the 1950's.

It even had it's own Hollywood sign!

We clowned around with Mickey at breakfast. 
The buffet had a wide variety of western and eastern Disney themed food!

These pork buns on the eastern food line cracked me up! 
For the second half of our amusement park adventure, Chris and I headed across town to Ocean Park.  Ocean Park is one part zoo, one part aquarium, one part water play land, and one part amusement park.  The thrill rides and animal exhibits reminded me more of Six Flags and Busch Gardens than Disney.  In spite of the 103° heat index, we had a good time proving we’re not too old for thrill rides.

Chris and I had a great time exploring nature and riding thrill rides at Ocean Park.
Selfie sticks are welcome at Ocean Park. 
Many of the coasters were significantly larger than Disney's coasters.  We started our day off with a ride on the Hair Raiser.  It had been a while since I had been flipped upside down on a coaster.  It felt GREAT! 
After a little hemming and hawing, I willed myself to go on the Flash.  It was incredible to see the Hong Kong coastline upside down.
After turning upside down we cooled off on some water rides.
We wanted to catch lunch with some penguins, so we took a number and waited a good 45 minutes.  
The hostess said we had plenty of time, so we checked out the North and South Pole habitats next to the restaurant.  The hostess lied.  We missed our reservation by three numbers, so we could either get back on the bottom of the list or find someone else to eat.  I was mad. I was a Clark Grizwold can't get in Wally World kind of mad. 
Fortunately, Chris calmed me down and took me to the terrace restaurant for a grilled ham and cheese instead.  This view from lunch was more beautiful and less smelly than the penguins.
The combination of hills and heat made the day exhausting.  We missed about 1/2 of the park due to poor planning. Around 5:30, we stumbled into a cab back to our hotel.
After catching a ride to the other side of the park, we caught a glimpse at one of the pop shows and took off.

Unfortunately, one day wasn’t enough time to explore all of Ocean Park.  We completely missed sections of the park due to poor time management and heat exhaustion.   I highly suggest downloading the Ocean Park Hong Kong App to plan your day before arriving to the park. I would love to return one day soon.