What do Thanksgiving, a French restaurant, an Aussie, a Taiwanese woman and November 28th have in common? Well, apart from sounding like the pilot of an underrated, but utterly hilarious indie drama on a community channel, not a whole lot a part from the Thanksgiving dinner which ensued yesterday.
Last night my friend Pinhsi and I went to the French restaurant Le Rouge to experience their take on Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving, that much-adored family-oriented holiday primarily celebrated in America and Canada on the fourth Thursday of November and the second Monday of October respectively.
Hey, when you’re overseas I guess you have some level of creative license on these kind of things, eh?
I’d written an article for Focus Taiwan on Thanksgiving in Taipei 2015, so I it would almost seem disingenuous to not attend an event myself!* Unless I’m mistaken, it’s the most comprehensive guide to Thanksgiving here this year. It was exciting to see how many people read it and shared it, and it made me realise that Thanksgiving is serious business, even here in Taipei!
(Whilst now all the dinner events are now over, if you’re interested in ordering a takeaway Thanksgiving feast there is still time! Check out the article for more info).
This is definitely one of the things I love most about living abroad- all the holidays from around the world you have the opportunity to celebrate.
I’d booked for 7:00, assuming that we’d be some of the first people to arrive. My Thanksgiving game is evidently weak, as there was already a long line of patrons snaking around the serve-yourself set up. Fearing that we’d come to late, I asked the waitress managing the bookings with a slight panic and not the most subtle hint of desperation, “There’s enough food, isn’t there?”. Thankfully, she assured me there was indeed, and with that we joined the end of the queue of hungry patrons.
We shuffled slowly but surely forward, when the magic moment came to grab a paper plate and load up. There were fresh bread rolls, two kinds of cheese, a mixed green salad, mashed potatoes, pumpkin soup, green bean casserole, sausages and smoked meat. Oh, and the turkey. The “dark beer slow roasted turkey” without a doubt took dominance on my plate (that’s a fancy way of saying I didn’t hold back in the slightest way).
Some of the food was already gobbled up when we finally got to it, such as the BBQ pulled pork, as only a few sparse mouthfuls remained. Fortunately the cooks replenished the food rather regularly, so we just waited until Round Two to try the more popular dishes. Thank god for seconds.
“Load up” is exactly what I did- I’m pretty sure that it’s Thanksgiving etiquette to eat too much to the point you question what Mr Levi Strauss was thinking when he decided to put an uncomfortable zipper and button on the design of jeans, and not some more forgiving (and sexy) combination velcro and stretchy elastic.
But then, if you’re wearing jeans you’re kind of doing Thanksgiving wrong. This may not be my holiday, but I at least know you would have to be a masochistic fool to wear jeans to Thanksgiving.
Finally, it was time to unleash a not-very-dormant food beast from within. The food- all of it- was incredibly delicious. As you can see, there wasn’t much order to my plate set up apart from “slather gravy everywhere”. I must admit, I’m not actually much of a turkey person, but the turkey here was surprisingly juicy, and the right balance of being punchy without being too salty.
I made sure to not hold back when getting seconds. The pulled pork was fantastic as well, however both times I went to serve myself food there was only about two tablespoons left which was disappointing.
The very sweet pumpkin pie rounded off the meal. We were having a break after scoffing down two bulging plates when groaning from fullness (read: unprecedented greed) , I turned to Pinhsi and suggested “We have to eat this pie right now before we get too full”. “Then we can go back for another round after” she followed. I like the way you think girl.
Overall, it was a very hearty meal, with good variety. All the dishes worked well together and there was a good balance between the heavier and lighter options.
The meal was NT$700 (plus 10% service charge), which is far more than what I usually pay for a meal. But, seeing as it was a special occassion, I thought I’d treat myself! Most of the other places were $600-1000 so considering that, and the high quality of the meal I think it was entirely worth a bit of a food budget blow out.
Coincidentally, two of my awesome Canadian friends, Rachel and Chris, were also at the restaurant, and invited us to sit with their large group of friends. It was a good thing too, because the “sit wherever you like” arrangement meant that despite booking, there wasn’t another spot for us anyway. I had a lot of fun eating this bountiful meal with them and their mix of Canadian and American friends. I didn’t know their friends before, so it was like a new instant “family” for the night.
I had a really lovely moment with one of them too. One of their friends who I only met that night actually thanked me, unprompted, for writing my Thanksgiving in Taipei 2015. She said she had come across the article herself, and without it she wouldn’t have known about all the options and rather than enjoying this experience at Le Rouge, would have instead booked at one of the other, less fulfilling places.
It was the first time I had a stranger especially come up to me and say they liked what I wrote (as opposed to me begging my friends to give me feedback on my writing!), and so I was really embarrassed to hear all that, but so happy. She even hugged me to show her appreciation, what a sweetheart!
If you’re in Taipei next year (!) for Thanksgiving, I’d really suggest you head out and try one of the great Thanksgiving meals on offer. Even if it’s not your tradition (let’s not forget I’m an Aussie here), it’s a brilliant excuse to stuff yourself silly while sharing a jovial night with friends.
Most importantly, it’s a nice nudge to remember that all of us something to say 謝謝(xie xie) for.
Update: Unfortunately Le Rouge this year closed its doors.
*NB. This is not a paid post in any way: I paid for my own meal and did not receive any special treatment. The article also did not receive any advertising.