Discovering AI and Italian wines

What is AI?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is all over the news. But what is it really? Our Rotary Club of Beijing has been discovering AI and Italian wines in recent meetings. Both speakers became members very recently.
As an engineer I am supposed to know a bit about AI but Tom has given a great overview of what is AI is today, and will be tomorrow, I learned a lot.
Tom is from The Netherlands and well known in the Dutch community.

His talk was on 17 January 3023 in Kempinski Hotel, during our Club’s lunch.
Tom‘s presentation explored the concept of generative AI and its impact on society, including how it is flipping the script on traditional artificial intelligence development and its potential effects on industries and innovation. Many examples (some live) were given during the presentation, as well as some key thought-starters for organizations on “where to start”.

Tom van Dillen is the owner of Greenkern, a transformation consultancy with offices in Beijing and Berlin. He moved to China in 1999, and hasn’t looked back since. Tom has a keen understanding of innovation and transformation and how these forces are shaping China’s dynamic society. He’s helped major multinationals navigate China’s fast-moving economy and Greenkern has become an advisor for organizations looking to adopt new thinking in automotive, healthcare, logistics and energy. When he’s not working, you’ll likely find him capturing the changing landscape of Beijing through his lens – or mowing the lawn at his cottage at the foot of the Great Wall.

The complexity and richness of Italian wines

On 28 February 2023 our member Jerome organized a wine tasting evening dinner in Blue Star Restaurant for the Rotary Club of Beijing, very well attended. See a peek in the kitchen!
Great evening with good food, friendly service and excellent variety of Italian wines.

Jerome Tafani is a French national based in Beijing since 2007 and has been an export manager of Asia Pacific for San Silvestro & Costa Di Bussia Wineries from Piemonte Italy for now a decade.
The two wineries are located in the Historical fine wines village of Barolo and belong to the Sartirano family which has owned the estates for 4 generations. The family’s wines are sold over 42 countries and have been in the Chinese market for over 20 years.
Jerome holds a Master degree in International Trade and other diplomas related to the Wine Education such as the British WSET level 3 and Italian Wine ambassador delivered by the famous Winemaker school of Alba Umberto I.
During the years of 2020 and 2021, Jerome was honored to be the chief Wine Critic for the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles on Chinese Wines from NingXia Region where more than 400 wines were tasted.
His life and work is now dedicated to promoting the Wine Culture and pursuing the discovery of high quality wines from both Italy and China and introducing them to consumers.

Blue Star Restaurant featured music and Stammtisch

German Stammtisch

Beijing Blue Star Restaurant featured music and Stammtisch. For the music usually a large German crowd attends.
I have been made member of the German community since last year. usually a modest but nice group, all enjoying Blue Star Restaurant with the friendly service of Thorsten and his staff.

The special was “Berlin Night” with pork liver Berlin style, on 22 February 2023. The dish is pretty much the same as my mother used to prepare!
The clip I made for WeChat Channels that evening beat all the records with over 70.000 likes!

Brian and Kevin

On 17 February 2023 another evening of food and music in Blue Star.

I tried and loved the special dish “Kohl & Pinkel” (kale with pee) and the usual Flammkuchen, I also call it “German Pizza”.
The duo Brian and Kevin plays the type of music I love…

Old China Lunch 3 February

Beijing getting slowly back to normal

Our Old China Lunch 3 February 2023 marked the start of the post-COVID misery, with still a number of members waiting to return. Several members were still away on vacation so our total of 30 was pretty good.

Morel’s Restaurant did its best for the service as several of the staff have not returned yet.
Susan Morel had a gift for all attendants: a small cute rabbit to mark the Year of the Rabbit, it was a real pleasant surprise!
I am the lucky owner of both rabbits they gave out, the bigger one was for Chinese New Year. They keep me company at breakfast and lunch!

Good food: Oeuf en Meurette

Finally the restaurant had to increase the price for the lunch as all ingredients have seen a stark cost increase. But we still get a great deal.
See the pictures of some dishes, and the menu.
A real hit were the poached eggs, the first time they were served as far as I know. Done by Chef Renaat personally.

It is actually called as follows:
Oeuf en Meurette (Poached Eggs in Red Wine Sauce)
This classic Burgundian dish of poached eggs in rich, flavorful red wine sauce served atop garlicky toast.
In French:
“Œufs pochés sur du pain grillé aillé accompagnés d’une sauce meurette, composée de vin rouge de Bourgogne, de lardons, d’oignons et d’échalotes revenus au beurre.”

Next lunch is planned for Friday 3 March. I am curious if we can go well over 30 guests!

Hegang Xiaochuan and La Taverne disappeared

Laohe Taitai Hegang Xiaochuan

That was the name of what we called “Chinese BBQ”; Hegang Xiaochuan and La Taverne disappeared from the larger Gongti area. The Hegang Skewers were located on Xindong Road, corner Xingfusancun 4th Alley, in the basement. It has been totally renovated and a new restaurant should open in the near future.
We liked that place, typical Chinese only. Friendly staff, pretty tasty skewers, hotpot and other dishes. And cheap.

I guess it closed due to poor business with COVID.
Beijing is becoming infamous by the many restaurants going bust. Often major reasons are excessive rents and poor management.

La Taverne is gone

La Taverne was on Gongti Xi Lu, fairly popular with French people. I liked the environment, interior was cozy, the outside area very comfortable and pleasant. We have very few outside seating like that in the larger Sanlitun area.
The restaurant was plagued by successive changes in its management and chefs. At times quality could be poor but they had some nice dishes.

Why it closed, no idea. The whole area was changed and one would not recognize the place. It is now part of an office building with a different gate.
I will miss those two places.

Chez Soi is now Le Sud

Chez Soi

Chez Soi is now Le Sud but I must admit I miss the previous version. Caroline has always been very friendly and welcoming and I keep visiting the new place.
Chez Soi was never a luxury top-level restaurant but the atmosphere was cozy, some of the dishes were pretty good and overall prices were rather cheap. Some of the pizzas were very tasty.

See some of the many dishes I enjoyed. Looking at them I feel hungry…
Yes the windows were pretty bad and needed renovation, Of course Chez Soi also suffered from the COVID problems and many forced closures. These 3 COVID years have taken a big toll on business.
Major renovation was done for the new restaurant, very well done.

Le Sud first visit

Our first visit on 14 November 2022 was, well, a bit disappointing.
The dishes: crab salmon, foie gras, beef Wellington, bouillabaisse, Ile flottante, apple tart plus a couple of IPA. The bouillabaisse was a joke and the Wellington was (for me at least) a weird version.

Overall price was rather high, too expensive for the quality and quantity.

Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating in the port city of Marseille. This is how it is supposed to look like! There are some different ways to prepare and serve but here you find a good introduction.

Back to Le Sud

On 2 January 2023 we tried again. This time we were much more happy with our choice.

Better choice of beers and the heating was also better. Friendly service.
I was not convinced at all by the fries. Soggy.
The duck was great.
I will surely return to test more!