On a whim we asked a cousin to drive us to a liquor store so we could buy a bottle of red wine. VN people aren’t big wine drinkers and the beer selection is paltry. There’s only a handful of beers to choose from and Heineken is considered the best, so that tells you everything you need to know. We bought a cheap Malbec because we didn’t want to splurge on an expensive bottle when transportation and temperature control are highly unreliable in VN. While looking around I happened to spy a single solitary bottle of Veuve Clicquot — for US$12. It was so unbelievably cheap I had to grab it. I was overjoyed, until Tom convinced me that it was a fake. Counterfeits are a huge problem here, popping up everywhere among designer goods, medication, cosmetics, liquor, you name it.
I’ve been dying for some champagne-worthy occasion or snacks but those are surprisingly rare in VN. We have access to a billion different types of fish to eat with rice but tortilla chips are nowhere to be found, so chips and salsa will have to remain a distant memory. Charcuterie and artisan cheeses are out of the question. A quest for cheese will get you wedges of super-processed Laughing Cow. Out of desperation, we opted for roast pork sandwiches and random snack chips — which come in flavors like “roasted squid” — from the local convenience store. Not ideal, but they were being paired with a $12 bottle of champagne, so what’s the harm?
Maybe it’s been too long since I’ve had champagne but I thought the Veuve Clicquot tasted authentic. It brought me to my happy place so it was real enough for me. Now we just have to figure out what to eat with our Malbec. Our daily fare of fish stewed in fish sauce probably isn’t going to work.