This summer Marja Vongerichten launched Kimchi Chronicles, a PBS series of her culinary journeys with her chef husband, Jean-Georges, through Korea’s markets, farms and restaurants. Half Korean and adopted at age 3, Marja has been rediscovering her roots since meeting her birth mother in 1995. With her newfound knowledge, Marja also published The Kimchi Chronicles cookbook (Rodale) in August. Here, she shares her thoughts on Korea.
Q: After spending so much time in Korea, how would you describe it?
A: The people are warm and as curious about you as you are of them. In the U.S., when people think of Korea, they think of the North. Most have no idea that South Korea is the size of Kentucky. Yet out of this small nation, we’ve become a leader in auto and electronics. And our history is filled with amazing stories about kings and queens and famous courtesans.
Q: Korea’s often overlooked as a travel destination. Would you recommend it?
A: It’s one of my favorite places to vacation. Korea is mountainous, so for outdoorsy types, there’s hiking, temple stays and camping, and the beach is never far away. If you like fast-paced, go to Seoul or Busan [in the south]. The language barrier is challenging, but there are lots of translation apps.
Q: What’s a favorite dish of yours?
A: My must-have is the kalchi jorim, braised belt fish in a spicy sauce with daikon.
Q: Has Jean-Georges incorporated Korean food into his menus?
A: He makes a steak with gochujang butter at Perry Street and a kimchi hot dog at Mercer Kitchen. I think I influence his cooking…I just let him think it was all his idea!
Last summer saw the U.S. debut of Sulwhasoo, Korea's top skincare brand, highly coveted for its effective incorporation of herbal medicine formulas. (Devotees, both in Korea and stateside, swear by the First Care Serum [$80], which increases the performance of your entire skincare regimen.) Sold only at Bergdorf Goodman, Sulwhasoo uses powerful indigenous ingredients, such as ginseng and white lily, which are blended together using poje, a traditional method that involves baking, steaming, fermenting or vinegaring each element. It may sound strange, but these ancient techniques, according to the company, enhance the beneficial qualities of the ingredients. This month Sulwhasoo introduces its Snowise collection (from $60), a new line that brightens and evens your complexion, especially good for those with dark age spots, hyperpigmentation and acne scars. With ginseng to restore the skin's vibrance and hedyotis diffusa—an herb that's said to even have cancer-fighting qualities—to help circulation, the Snowise Brightening Serum ($200) is notably light yet effective. To see fast results, New Yorkers can book the customized Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng facial at Bergdorf Goodman (free with $150 purchase of Sulwhasoo products). Trained at the company's Seoul headquarters, the aesthetician selects products for your specific skin type and also performs traditional treatments, such as a detoxifying facial massage using jade. Call 212-872-8726 for appointments; bergdorfgoodman.com.
Recently, in our January/February issue, we uncovered the world of Julien Farel, hairstylist extraordinaire, whose clients include Richard Gere, Kate Moss, Ivanka Trump, and Rafael Nadal, to name just a few. Now he has partnered with Hommage, best known for its luxe shave sets, to open a state-of-the-art men's grooming lounge on the penthouse level of his Madison Avenue salon. And who better to trust with this than Farel? Opening this week, Hommage Atelierby Julien Farel is staffed with stylists, barbers and aestheticians handpicked by Farel and features individual grooming stations that are like first-class cabins on steroids: iPad 2s for reading, TV-embedded mirrors and drawers dedicated to charging gadgets; all treatments, from shaves (from $50) to haircuts (from $125) to massages (from $100), are done in black leather ergonomic chairs. The menu is well thought out, with options such as hand reflexology ($50) for those whose fingers need a break from their BlackBerrys and lymphatic drainage face massage ($125) for the puffy-faced businessman who suffered numerous sleepless flights. The service is first-class, too, with a personal attendant for each guest, who can, say, have your shoes shined or suit steamed. For real VIP treatment, however, Hommage Atelier offers three types of annual memberships—Titanium ($1,500), Carbon ($4,000) and Platinum ($6,000) —which, among other perks, includes a personal engraved shave set and private casier, special rates, off-hour appointments and access to Hommage Ateliers around the world (plans are underway for outposts in Asia and the Middle East). And once you slip into that robe and velvet loafers, don't forget to request your beverage of choice—single-malt Scotch, anyone? At 605 Madison Ave., New York; 212-752-2100; hommage.com/atelier.
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