Shangri-lager: Heaven Supermarket to take over former Swensen’s / Prima Taste space?

Word is the team behind Heaven Supermarket, which is just west of Nearby the Tree and a most excellent repository of beer — both in terms of choices, with more than 100, and prices, with brews only a fraction above wholesale — has taken over the former Swensen’s / Prima Taste restaurant space on nearby Xindong Road and will open it as a bar, complete with a pub grub menu, sometime next month. (That sounds like a better fit than Swensen’s / Prima Taste though I do miss when tapas restaurant Mare used to be in that space.)

I have no idea what the prices would be like but hope some of the value of Heaven Supermarket — or Paradise CVS or whatever it is called — will carry over. (I enjoyed a bottle of Red Seal ale from California there last night for rmb20.) Nor do I know what name would be used. Perhaps Shangri-lager? Or Ale-Dorado? Or Beer-topia or beer-Vana? Or…

Three years after the day after: Steven Schwankert on post-Olympic Beijing

A day before the opening of the 2008 Olympics, I received an email from longtime Beijing resident and scuba diver instructor Steven Schwankert, one that I think captured the mood felt by many and that I posted the next day as “Farewell, my Beijing Shi“. (“Tonight is the last night of any Beijing that we ever really knew,” he wrote.) Those Olympics ended three years ago yesterday and I asked Schwankert if he would write a second post, one that reflects on what the Games meant for him and the city. Here it is:

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The day after the day after the day before the Olympics opening.

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Three Years After the Day After

By Steven Schwankert

Every year when the weather warms up in April, I have the same feeling I did in 2008: the Olympics are coming! If only that were true.

When the Olympic torch was extinguished, I was with two guys. As such, I didn’t shed any tears, although deep down that’s what I wanted to do. The Olympics had been great, they were a roaring success, and suddenly, not just the 16-day spectacle was over, but the seven-year journey of Beijing residents.

The next day Beijing awoke to a profound sense of confusion. The Paralympics were a few days away, the flame would be re-lit, but it just wasn’t the same. China would celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding the following year, but again, the scale and excitement wasn’t comparable. For the first time in about 15 years, Beijing as a city had nothing to look forward to. What the hell do we do now?

That question was answered 22 days later on September 15, when Lehmann Brothers filed for bankruptcy, kicking off what we now call the Global Economic Crisis. What do we do now? The Games are over; we go back to work and hang on for dear life, that’s what we do.

I watched Barack Obama get elected at the Rickshaw, packed to the gills mostly with people who weren’t from the U.S., but who cheered his win with American gusto regardless. A week to the day later, I lost my primary job. A week after that, I lost another job, temporarily. Life after the Olympics really started to suck.

Just before Christmas, I was at one of Tun’s (in)famous Friday night Ladies’ Nights with the proprietor of this blog. It was like watching 450, 20-something Neros fiddle while the rest of the world burned, a bacchanal of questionable booze and 80s tunes, a celebration by people who had chosen the right year not to look for work.

Three years later, the Rickshaw is gone. Ladies’ Night at Tun is gone [as we knew it]. And for the most part, the Olympics are gone. One wonders about its legacy. Subway Line 10 is awesome. And then there’s…?

The Bird’s Nest is now essentially a 90,000-seat hollow shell, used a couple of times per year for a visiting soccer team or rare concert. The Water Cube is a water park. Anybody been out to the rowing center lately? Of course you haven’t.

This summer, Beijing seems to be at capacity. Every restaurant is full. Every street is choked with traffic. Every attraction is mobbed. We hoped that the Olympic experience would transform Beijing the way it had Barcelona and Sydney. It didn’t. Beijing didn’t become Sydney. It became Shanghai, and we all know how much Beijing hates Shanghai.

There aren’t any more sports being played in Beijing now than there were three years ago. There are barely more concerts by international artists than there were three years ago. Traffic is horrendous. Air quality is abysmal. Service is terrible. Beijing welcomed the world and then told it to go home. China confirmed itself to itself, alpha and omega.

What we didn’t learn from the day after the Olympics was that that was it. The Olympic carnival doesn’t come back next summer, or the summer after, or in most cases, ever. It’s like the blooming of desert flowers: it might happen once in a very long while, it’s over very quickly, and if you didn’t see it, you probably wouldn’t know it ever happened. But if you were there, and you saw it, you’ll never forget it.

I didn’t come to Beijing for the Olympics and I don’t stay because there was one here. Beijing has always done one thing well –- it attracts talent, domestic and foreign. It is still home to the most dynamic, frustrating, inspiring and interesting group of people I’ve ever met, and it offers more opportunity than I ever imagined. That was enough before, and it’s enough now. I can visit those other cities, but I want to live here.

Hilton Theme Team Contest: Pretty much everyone’s a winner, baby!

Pretty much everyone’s a winner, baby.

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Director of operations Simon Amos and his team at the Beijing Hilton have scrutinized the entries to the Theme Team Contest, for this year’s Food and Wine Experience on November 12, and picked the winners. In fact, when I received the results, they included a surprise.

First, the grand prize, which includes two tickets to the Food and Wine Experience, two tickets to the buffet dinner at Elements, an overnight stay in a suite, and in-room breakfast the next day. And the winner, with the entry “Vinopolitan“, is Matt. And Amos says the Beijing Hilton will be using Vinopolitan as the name for this year’s  event.

The Beijing Hilton will also give two tickets to the Food and Wine Experience and dinner buffet to Kirby, for his entry “Decanted Decadence”, and — because they felt both were equally good — two tickets each to the Food and Wine Experience to Jocko for “Vinfamous” and Belinda for “Vintageous”.

The surprise is the Beijing Hilton will give one ticket to the Food and Wine Experience to each of the following readers who submitted an entry:

  • mr. brau
  • Fangbiankeke
  • octopus
  • Dane
  • Half-Breed
  • Kirby
  • Alice
  • Janie Gierlich
  • DZ
  • mi
  • jen
  • Aimi
  • ctea
  • Ann
  • Beijing Daze
  • Roger
  • Alex B
  • Vagarumbeando
  • Geraldine
  • Richard
  • Geraldine
  • Daniel LaRusso
  • Daniel
  • JP
  • Andy
  • Sarahplusone
  • chinabeergeek
  • Jake
  • chunky
  • Jingyuan
  • Nadia
  • Audrey
  • Mark
  • Jennifer
  • Casey
  • MT

I will be in contact by email to explain how to claim prizes. Thanks to everyone who participated (you can see all of the entries here) and to the Beijing Hilton for the prizes. I’ll post more about The Beijing Hilton Food and Wine Experience as the event gets closer and I hope to see everyone there.

Sips & Bites: Lantern re-launch, Tongli area changes, Fez cocktail class

Lantern 2.0 will open this weekend and, according to a press release, “not only be the epicenter of electronic music and visual art in Beijing, but also hub for all creative cultures.” All creative cultures? Even quilt making and  paper folding? Anyway, the new spot is north of Workers Stadium, behind Xuxian Lou, and is the third effort by electronic music outfit in less than two years to establish a home, including the initial one in the basement of the 3.3 Building and then the project House at the north gate of Workers Stadium.

The press release also says that Lantern is “aiming to attract the capital’s vanguard crowd.” OK, that leaves me out. How about just attracting people with good music and — let’s hope — good drinks? There is particular hope for the drinks this time around as Miao Wong, of Acupuncture / Lantern 2.0, says George Zhou of George’s bar is helping in that area.

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The protruding signs on the shops across from the north by northwest section of Sanlitun Village were being dismantled, under police supervision, as I passed earlier today. I’m not sure if this indicates bigger changes in the area or — given the campaign banners on Tongli Studio — one of those occasional “clean up” efforts. Foot traffic there is also suffering from the extended underground work being done in front of Tongli. Some people have speculated that it is a sign that dodgy building to the west, and its shops, will soon be gone, while my own theory is that a tunnel is being built so Swire executives can shuttle between The Opposite House and Sanlitun Village without having to fight off the temptation of roadside hotpot. One bar manager, however, says the construction is simply to fix a drainage problem.

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Bartender and consultant Bob Louison will lead his next cocktail class — and he has to have more than 30 of these under his belt, no? — next Tuesday from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at Fez, atop Spanish restaurant Agua in Nali Patio. Louison also recently launched a cocktail school in the complex that includes the upcoming Temple Restaurant.

Low-carb Contest: Win a pair of 750-gram steaks and martinis from Flamme

Marketing manager Carrie Lei, chef Leo Chang and restaurant manager Helen Jin

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Update: Details on the winner here.

Man, those steaks are big. So big they have their own weather systems*. So big you don’t need a doggy bag, you need an elephant bag.  So big…

Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, low-carb fans ought to be happy with this contest given the prize, a prize  that should be enough for the winner and a friend:

  • Two 750-gram bone-in ribeye steaks
  • Two classic martinis made with Bombay Sapphire gin
  • One avocado salad

To win, fill in the blank in this sentence (leave your answer in the comments section):

This steak is so big __________________.”

So big Flamme needs to use a crane to deliver it to the table. So big you could use it as a meat raft. So big…
The details:
  • Leave a comment and fill in the blank: “This steak is so big __________________.”
  • All reasonable comments go into the draw for two 750-gram ribeyes, two martinis and one avocado salad from Flamme.
  • The deadline is Monday at 3 PM.
  • Note that this prize cannot be used on Tuesdays (two-for-one steak night), holidays or with other promotions. And Flamme will need a day’s notice before you come in to mow down

* Yes, I am borrowing lines from So I Married an Axe Murderer.