After long last, over a month since my last post, I have returned! I await, with great anticipation, the sight of the great number of my readers flocking back to my blog like a brood of cicadas appearing from below ground after years of absence (As a side note, check out the Life Cycle section of the cicada Wikipedia page).
Despite its introduction, this post has little to do with insects. It pertains instead to my other primary interest, the Chinese. As the Chinese would say, 我对中国有很兴趣。
I couple of weeks ago, I went with my uncle on an excursion around Ann Arbor. My uncle had told me that there was a new, limited-time Chinese woodblock prints exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). He also told me about a favorable review he had read in the Metro Times about Kai Garden, a Chinese restaurant on Main Street. So we went to both the museum and the restaurant, as well as an Asian pastry shop (Eastern Accents) and Tea Haus, a tea shop which wishes it was Goldfish Tea. I will now sum up the experience:
Stop 1: Kai Garden
This was, how you say… 太好吃了! The steamed pork belly in spicy garlic sauce, recommended by the Metro Times Review, was as delicious as it sounds, and our spontaneous choice of Ants on the Tree (yes, that’s right, Ants on the Tree), turned out to be a spicy pork and noodles dish which lived up to its perfect name. My uncle told the waitress I could speak Chinese, and, after I conversed a bit in Mandarin, the owner came over and told me to speak in Chinese the next time I come, because they will understand me better. All in all, Kai Garden has now become one of my favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor.
Stop 2: Eastern Accents
I was slightly underwhelmed by this pastry shop, but the 红豆月饼 (hóngdòuyuèbǐng, or red bean moon cake) we ordered was as good, if not better, than the moon cakes I’ve had in the past. Our stop here was brief, so my description will be too!
Stop 3: Tea Haus
I should stress again: Goldfish Tea > Tea Haus > Lipton. That being said, the lapsang souchong we ordered was wonderfully smoky -suspiciously so, according to my uncle. Teas are sometimes chemically flavored artificially, and so a tea that has such a strong smoky flavor must be taken with a grain of salt, although that may also artificially affect the flavor. This was the first time that my uncle had visited Tea Haus, and he said that the nice comparison between Tea Haus and Goldfish Tea would be that Tea Haus is European-style, whereas Goldfish Tea is authentic Chinese-style.
Stop 4: UMMA
I’m not an expert, or even a novice, on Chinese woodblock prints, but I found the exhibit very enjoyable. I normally want to leave museums within the first half hour of entering, but the variety and history of and in the works kept me entertained throughout the whole exhibit. There was a mix of contemporary and traditional prints, which served to educate me, at least a bit, about the development of this form of art. It seemed like most of the modern ones focused on people and cultural change, with human images the most prominent objects in several of the works, whereas many of the older works featured nature and scenes from poetry. My favorite work was a modern one, portraying a gray, dilapidated building inside of a glass box, with a painting of Mao Zedong, as well as a banner with a poem about Mao (which I couldn’t understand, unfortunately). The room in which the glass box was placed had a long, traditional, and colorful Chinese woodblock wrapping around the walls and extending beyond the scope of the painting. I though that this print was a poignant representation of a negative view of the change which occurred in China through the Cultural Revolution.
All in all, the Adventures of Formicidae Fantasy and his 舅舅 was fun at each stop! The next time you’re in Ann Arbor, I recommend you experience some of the wonderful Chinese food, moon cakes, tea, and woodblock prints that the city has to offer.