Oops. This one got lost in the mail…
Perhaps CIA isn’t technically my alma mater, I’m not sure the rules. But it seems Tor is indeed my brother. I had taken very little time to actually plan what I’d do once I arrived to Thailand. So it was a great pleasure to meet up with Tor who took very good care of me. He and I began our education at the CIA at the same time and had just now met up for the first time in about 6 years.
After spending a night catching up with him in Bangkok’s Chinatown, Yaowarat, I caught a ride with him the next morning to his hometown of Ayutthaya, a former capital of Thailand and home to ancient temple ruins, an hour or so north of Bangkok. I learned that not only does Tor work in a restaurant, but he owns and operates Upper Taste. To me, the coolest thing about his menu is there’s no dessert section. Guests head to Pastry Architect- operated by his brother’s wife- on the other end of the corridor.
After meeting the family on arrival, we began our visit with a quick tour through his kitchen before sitting down to a sampling of the bakery’s offerings: a caramel praline éclair (almost inside out, the crispy pastry on the bottom oozing with a surprising rush of caramel sauce, a perfect vehicle for the puffs of cream resting on top), bostock (trapped somewhere between brioche and pound cake, creamy and lush with the delicate fruity flavor of almond cream and sliced almonds) and a crisp croissant(butta!), along with my macchiato and his latte.
As we sat there I longed to return to the kitchen, compared to the days I’ve mostly spent at a desk recently and compared to this guy who spends his overseeing a restaurant. But further, I marveled at how much he, with his parents, 2 brothers and sister accomplished so far. He owns a restaurant (where his cousin works) next door to the bakery that his brother and brother’s wife run on the property of his father’s rice factory and wholesale. I look forward to the enterprise my 3 brothers, 3 sisters and I will build with our growing numbers.
The Upper Taste lunch was simple- mostly in the taste of the West. Nonetheless, it was tasty and beautifully plated. I had onion soup, made with chicken broth, hidden under a puff pastry dome. For the main: a seared duck breast with a cherry gel and croquettes dauphinoise. But my favorite was the refreshing oyster at the start, brightened with a dill granita and lime gel and the cool of mint wafting off my tongue- especially on this hot “summer” day.
After lunch, we drove into the city center to walk the temple ruins. There are plenty of them. Along the roads, there are plenty of vibrant green fields, elephant chauffeurs, and buildings that look like smaller versions of the grand palace in Bangkok. There was also roti saimai, often referred to as Thailand’s cotton candy. The sugary threads looked like some pulled rope, but it was that sweet melt in your mouth joy of cotton candy with a few crystalized clusters, wrapped in something comparable to a warm crepe- a beautiful sun catcher. The ones we shared were flavored with pandan.
What better way to finish off my evening with the opera torte and baba rum that I’d been eyeing since the morning? Except I forgot it on the motorbike that I rode once I made it back to Bangkok!!