Simple Pleasures

You've been huntin' round for treasure
Find it all in the simple pleasures
- Jake Bugg

Last Thursday, birdMAN taught his last English class of the semester. What should we do with all his free time? Study Chinese? Naahh. Let’s go play!

For us, the equivalent of playing is eating. So the following morning, we bee lined to our favorite beer and cheeseburger place: Great Leap Brewery. Great Leap is westerner’s haven. It’s clean. It’s spacious. It smells like hops. The bathrooms are not only stocked with toilet paper but also soap. The no smoking inside rule is enforced. The Indian Pale Ale beer is cold and bitter. The flavorful lamb burger is accompanied by a generous side of French fries crisped to golden perfection.

Great Leap makes a great burger
After satisfying our American bellies with American-style food and beer, we headed over to a popular hutong* called Nanluoguxiang (南锣鼓巷). Nestled amongst the stuffed pandas and silk slipper stocked shops was a real, genuine, just-like-the-kind-in-California frozen yogurt shop. For 21.5 RMB (3.50 USD), birdMAN and I shared a cup of sheer pleasure: tart frozen yogurt topped with whole almonds, kiwi chunks, and chocolate syrup.

Life just got a little sweeter.

This is my happy face
Nanluoguxiang can be crowded.
You can buy cool stuff in Nanluoguxiang. This picture reminds me of me with my two sisters.
Food options appealing to the western palate seem to be popping up all over Beijing. Pizza, Indian, Italian, cheeseburger, and sandwich restaurants are within a 20 minute bike ride of our house. Ok, the available monstrous nachos or chicken burritos may not quite meet California Mexican food standards, but it’s pretty darn good.

Eating like a westerner, however, can be pricey for an average Chinese person. A decent western entrée will cost 40 to 80 RMB (6.50 – 13.00 USD)#. An exceptionally tasty entrée at a fancy place will cost more (we don’t go to those places). A pint of Great Leap craft brew ranges in cost from 25 to 55 RMB (4.00 – 9.00 USD). Generally, birdMAN and I will spend about 150 RMB (25 USD) for a splurge meal. Ok, in US dollars, 25 bucks may sound like a cheap meal. But for comparison, our monthly water bill is about 25 RMB (4 USD). A bowl of noodles with vegetables and meat will cost 10 to 20 RMB (1.60 to 3.20 USD).

But what can we do? Californians just cannot live on noodles and rice alone.

Chinese word of the blog: 口福kǒufú (literally, mouth good fortune)
English translation: very nice to eat

Example sentence: 我可真有口福Wǒ kězhēn yǒu kǒufú
English translation: I am eating really delicious food. (My translation may not be super correct, but you do say this when you eat really delicious food).

*Hutong 胡同: Hutong is neighborhood characterized by a cluster of narrow alleys. A long time ago, China’s emperors built Beijing’s hutongs to house people according to social class. 

# Some restaurants offer lunch or dinner specials.  Subway restaurant sells a 15 RMB sandwich. One nearby restaurant discounts the 35 RMB chicken burger to 10 RMB every Monday. We take full advantage of such deals!

Great Leap also offers this vegetarian option: the Knife and Fork Sandwich
Last February we woke up early to watch the Superbowl at Great Leap. birdMAN is very happy. There's nothing like a beer at 8 am.
Really awesome pizza no matter where you are
This is birdMAN's happy face
This burrito is a cylinder of deliciousness
Beijing Nachos! Totally worth 58 RMB