taiwan series: maji maji

It's been a few weeks since I returned from Taiwan, and I'm already again craving all the delicious food that we ate there. One of the new-to-me spots for tasty treats was Maji Square, an outdoor food court/flea market that occupies the former site of the international flower expo a few years back. There are clothing and tchotchkes, wine and Taiwanese tea-flavored ice creams, and a long line of savory food stands with all different types of food (Taiwanese, of course, but also Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai, American, etc.). The Maji Food and Deli is also pretty cool! There are lots of locally made and produced dry goods, but also a deli where you can get bento lunches, and more ice cream. There are also some nice kitchen wares. 

The entrance. 

The entrance. 

A line of non-food shops and vendors.  

A line of non-food shops and vendors.  

Some more of the shops.  

Some more of the shops.  

Inside the food market.

Inside the food market.

Some kitchen goods.  

Some kitchen goods.  

Soups, teas, and all manner of pantry goods.  

Soups, teas, and all manner of pantry goods.  

A view of the deli.  

A view of the deli.  

Some additional restaurants around a courtyard. 

Some additional restaurants around a courtyard. 

Our visit was pretty short, but I'm definitely looking forward to going back next time around!  

taiwan series: eslite spectrum

a trip to taiwan isn't complete without a visit to eslite. i usually manage to leave the building with all kinds of stationery and japanese magazines that i didn't know i needed. hhh can't walk away without dozens of tiny notebooks. (this is my go-to store, in taichung.) eslite was founded in 1989, and has since become one of taiwan's most recognizable brands. in the last several years, it's expanded from a bookstore to much more, including department stores, art movie houses, performance venues and even a hotel. (and a friend just told me that they also have a thriving business in high-end commercial kitchens). last year, it launched eslite spectrum at the songshan cultural park in taipei. songshan cultural park is another one of these former SOE conversions, like huashan 1914 creative park. when we visited one weekend in december, the space was packed. 

as we walked up from the street, the hotel was the first thing to catch my eye. i totally want to stay here next time we go to taipei. 

as we walked up from the street, the hotel was the first thing to catch my eye. i totally want to stay here next time we go to taipei. 

eslite spectrum is a design-focused department store. there is also the requisite food court in the basement, as well as whole floors devoted to local taiwanese-made goods ranging from textiles to housewares to teas and tasty local edibles.

a coffee shop on the ground floor. 

a coffee shop on the ground floor. 

designed home goods - mostly imported on the ground level. 

designed home goods - mostly imported on the ground level. 

love these vases - look like  muuto ? 

love these vases - look like muuto

matte black coffee pots.

matte black coffee pots.

matching cappucino mugs.

matching cappucino mugs.

there is a lot to take in, including this random collection of taiwanese hipsters strumming away on one of the upper floors. i am not totally sure if this is a shop, performance art, or what. 

it's an ethnographic glimpse into the life of taiwanese twenty-somethings! one of the hipsters glared at me as i took the photo. 

it's an ethnographic glimpse into the life of taiwanese twenty-somethings! one of the hipsters glared at me as i took the photo. 

there were a lot of japanese and european goods, including furniture, clothing, and more designed household objects. 

a living room in the middle of the shop floor.

a living room in the middle of the shop floor.

japanese wrapping cloths. 

japanese wrapping cloths. 

takezasado  textiles.

takezasado textiles.

fog linen work, one of my favorite brands.

fog linen work, one of my favorite brands.

a simple japanese enamel and wood lunch box. 

a simple japanese enamel and wood lunch box. 

a section called the "expo" featured loads of taiwan-made and -designed goods. there were some really nice teas and cakes here for sale too. 

eslite-expo
so cute! it says "full." 

so cute! it says "full." 

indigo-dyed cloth fashioned into coasters, pencil cases, laptop bags, placemats.

indigo-dyed cloth fashioned into coasters, pencil cases, laptop bags, placemats.

we wrapped up the visit with a coffee stop in the basement food court. good times.

a precarious mug. nice looking but not terribly practical.

a precarious mug. nice looking but not terribly practical.

hhh couldn't figure out how to set his mug back into the saucer afterwards. 

hhh couldn't figure out how to set his mug back into the saucer afterwards. 

taiwan series: shiyang culture restaurant

lucky for me, hhh's parents love to eat as much as we do. they are also weirdly knowledgeable about all the best restaurants, so when they suggested that we go to shi-yang culture restaurant during our last trip to taiwan, we didn't say no. the tea house and restaurant are deep in the mountains (or maybe it just felt like that because the car had to scrape alongside jungle-y brambles to reach our destination). as we approached, we saw a man at the road's fork, who gestured for us to wait while another car edged up the tiny path. 

shiyang-tea-house-brook

we made it to the pebbled lot, and then ventured the rest of the way on foot. in taiwan, nature is overwhelming and unkempt - anything will grow, anywhere, all the time. (and it doesn't just go for flora but fauna too, especially the tiny pest varieties...i will forever be scarred by the flying cockroaches of my childhood.) it's hard to imagine the amount of effort that must go into landscaping maintenance in taiwanese cities to keep the greenery from conquering every unpaved surface. at shi-yang, though, the wildness is allowed, and the buildings co-exist peacefully with plant life. although the restaurant has only been at this location a couple of years, it looks as if it's been here for decades. (a consequence of taiwan's aggressive humidity: anything manmade starts to show age the minute it goes up.)

the wooden walkway along the event space.

the wooden walkway along the event space.

the food was delicious and creative, and the space was gorgeously simple. it made me think that maybe mountain life wouldn't be so bad. there are several wooden structures on both sides of a bubbling mountain brook (so idyllic!), and a bridge that spanned the water. all the rooms are lined with tatami mats and set with low tables. there is one large building that looked as if it could host parties, which also housed a plum blossom arrangement that i desperately wished was in my apartment.

i mean, look at that. i bet you wish you owned it too. 

i mean, look at that. i bet you wish you owned it too. 

another angle of the same lovely arrangement.

another angle of the same lovely arrangement.

it's definitely worth going at least half an hour before your reservation (which you will need in order to eat) so you can walk the grounds. i obsessively took photos of all the plants i dreamed about putting in my yard, even though i had no way of then figuring out what they were at the time. good thing i just discovered this amazing app called garden compass, which will identify plants for you via email. from the description in itunes, it actually sounds like a real live plant expert looks at the photo and writes you back. you get 20 IDs a month - not just of plants but also plant diseases (so if your houseplant seems to be floundering, you can ask the app what ails it!). i already tried it out with two plant IDs, and so far so good. 

i would die to get a fern that big to grow in my yard. but somehow i don't think this guy would enjoy northeastern winters very much...

i would die to get a fern that big to grow in my yard. but somehow i don't think this guy would enjoy northeastern winters very much...

shiyang-corner.jpg
shiyang-interior
shiyang-table-setting
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anyway, it was super exciting to discover this spot. i get the feeling it's pretty special. now you should go, and then tell me how you like it. xoxo