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Browsing Category Asia and Oceania

Myanmar

Burmese Days

Mingalabar! Here is a little film from our Myanmar trip. I will need to take some time to sit and process the week that was… it was a beautiful time, in large part because of the Burmese people we encountered along the way. Shots taken and edited from my iPhone, I filmed more than a hundred short clips but it was not possible to fit everything into 4:20 minutes– the length of Jonsi’s beautiful song I chose to accompany this little amateur video.

Burmese Days from Frances Ellen on Vimeo.

“The single great accident of human existence is geography: where we are born in this bordered, divided, largely unjust world. My life would have been different if I had been born elsewhere. If I had been born in a country like Burma, who would I be? What would I look like?

Can I remember the word for ‘beautiful’? Humans meet a landscape like this and all our words become second-rate. The beauty is mythical, mesmerizing; from elsewhere, I thought, then corrected myself. The plain of temples was just there. It is I who come from elsewhere”

– Burmese Lessons, Karen Conelly

Laos / On the Road / Vietnam

On The Road: July 2015

Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Checking in from the Hanoi Noi Bai Airport en route to Manila. I spent a few days in Hanoi (Vietnam) and Luang Prabang (Laos), and their respective environs. Both proved to be equally memorable places for entirely different reasons.

This ends my “big trip” for the year. I try to see one new country each year and I’ve been trying to do that since 2006. I hope I am driven enough to attempt this for the rest of my life. I meant to set a “30 before 30” goal but I am past that age now, and yet I have barely covered 30 countries. Yes, I know sometimes it is not about crossing off items from a long list.

I spent a day in an elephant sanctuary in Laos and I must say it was really something special, and I am still thinking about the elephants several days later. I’d volunteer if I had the time or means. After a friend’s recommendation and some research, I’m glad to have chosen a particular elephant camp that truly cares for the animals and customers as well. I hope to write about it one of these days.

Nepal

My heart breaks for Nepal

I meant to write about Nepal as a travel destination at some point. We visited the Kathmandu Valley in August last year and in the week that we visited, we managed to see all 7 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. It was a place like no other. I was, in fact, looking at budget flights to Kathmandu last Friday, on the eve of the quake, hoping to return.

No other place has given me such an overload of the senses than the streets of Kathmandu. People dress differently. The smells are different, the food is different, there are 100 different things to look at all at once. Hindu Nepalis have thousands of gods, and you can see the reverence and worship everywhere you go. It was truly a living museum. The power goes out for a few hours twice a day. Life is simple. Houses are spartan. They cook, eat, sleep on the floor.  People look happy. I came home grateful for everything I have, inflicted with an inexplicable guilt, and I longed to see more and do more.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 25, has destroyed peoples’ homes and ancient structures in the Valley and its environs. More than 3,000 lives were lost, and the death toll is still climbing.  My heart breaks for all those beautiful souls. Most sacred sites in Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhaktapur were reduced to dust and rubble; the very places that contribute to the significant income of the community as touristic and pilgrimage sites.

To all the beautiful souls of Nepal, may you rise from this tragedy and rebuild your beautiful cities with the grace and dignity that I know you have always possessed.

The Beautiful Faces of Nepal

a blind man enjoying his chai at the Boudhanath Stupa
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

street tailors at the Mangal Bazaar in Patan
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Lovely ladies having a chat, preparing for the day
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

What I assume to be Tibetan refugees at Boudhanath
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Two of the sadhus at Pashupatinath
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Ladies chatting in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Beautiful friendly faces at the Bhaktapur Gai Jatra Festival
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Rajesh, our guide for a few days
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Toy seller in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Fruit seller with his ingenius cart at Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Child seller in Bhaktapur.. all she had to sell were these sprigs of cilantro
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Family at Changu Narayan– the wife and I shared a smile because her husband stumbled and he couldn’t lift the sack of firewood
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Ice cream seller in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Newari man watching all the festivities in Bhaktapurfaces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Mother and child in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Newari men chatting after a long day of work
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Cute little human I met at the Patan Golden Temple. His Father kept ordering him to greet me ‘namaste’
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Merchant at the Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

This site has practically no readers yet, but in any case, here is one way to extend help if you are from the Philippines.
http://www.redcross.org.ph/press/news/item/954-help-nepal-now and http://ushare.redcross.org.ph/

Food / Philippines

8-course Degustation at The Goose Station

This meal was courtesy of a Deal Grocer deal: “Sensational 8-Course Degustation Dinner with Foie Gras.” Photos taken with a camera phone!

Foie Gras Cone (Foie Gras Mousse, Port Jelly, Fig Jam, Hazelnut)
Light and delicate, a good start to the meal.

The Goose Station's foie gras cone
Tuna Crudo (Grapefruit, Beet, and Raspberry Vinaigrette, Herbs)
I honestly don’t remember much from this dish.
The Goose Station's tuna crudo

Trio of Bruschette (Chickpea, Salmon, Chicken Liver)
Overall a good dish. I love a good chicken liver bruschetta, I vividly recall the best one I have ever had, from Il Latini in Florence. The Goose Station’s version comes close, I wish this serving was bigger because it’s one of my favorites.
The Goose Station's trio of bruschette

Egg and Sweet Potato (Textures of Sweet Potato, Smoked Bacon, Goat Cheese, Select Produce)
For me, the best dish from this degustation is a slow-cooked egg with lardons and chips. It is beautifully plated, too.
The Goose Station's eggs and sweet potato

Intermezzo (Strawberry Sorbet, Lychee Granita, Strawberry Chip, Balsamic Reduction)
Refreshing.
The Goose Station's sorbet

Scallop and Carrots (Textures of Carrot, Potato Chips, Fennel Froth)
Scallops were well cooked with a nice sear. Carrot brunoise and carrot puree and half of a baby carrot… make no mistake this is indeed a scallops and carrot dish! The carrot flavor to me, did not elevate the scallops– I wonder, why this combination?
The Goose Station's scallop and carrots

Foie Gras Taho (Foie Gras Chawan Mushi with Sherry Reduction and Tapioca)
Had to plug my nose to finish this dish, foie gras tastes very good but not in this preparation. It had a, for a lack of a better word, malansa quality. Not to say it’s fishy, but it had an unpleasant smell and aftertaste.

The Goose Station's foie gras chawan mushi

TGS Burger (Angus Patty, Brioche Bun, Asiago-Raclette, Fries)
Good burger and fries, but it seemed out of place. “The last seven dishes may not be enough for these cheapo deal hunters, let’s throw in a thick burger for good measure!”
The Goose Station's TGS burger

Halo Halo
A nice reinterpretation of the beloved Filipino desert.
The Goose Station's Halo Halo

Overall, a hit and miss. The selling point of this degustation  was the foie gras. It was not the real deal however – they were delivered in a mousse and chawan mushi preparation. The progression didn’t make much sense; this Deal Grocer set felt a bit like a throwaway menu, solely for the purpose of luring diners who normally can’t afford to pay full price. (Oui, c’est moi!) I felt the service was a bit awkward, like we were not really welcome; that would probably be because we did not get a cheerful server.
I think I am bound to have a better meal if I ordered from the regular menu.

The Goose Station
http://thegoosestation.ph/
G/F W Tower 39th Street
Taguig, Philippines
Tel. 632-5569068; 0917-85GOOS

Indonesia / Writing

Life

And just like that, more than half of the year is over. I haven’t even finished writing about the EU trip I took a long time ago. I’ve taken two more trips since then, and they still remain in my ‘for future blog posts’ list. 🙁

Less than a week ago, my plane landed in Manila from Denpasar, Bali. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise view as we drove to Ngurah Rai Airport, and the fact that I am never awake early enough to see the sunrise as beautiful as this one made it harder to leave. I still cannot sit still thinking about having to go back to an office job while there as so many things I need to see, experience, and learn from.

Bali is diverse and beautiful, but more than the touristy sights, it’s traveling with a person you have known for seventeen years, the house with the smells of clove cigarettes, sandalwood incense, and herbal mosquito coils, the kindness of the people we met along the way, a little personal achievement in the form of a decent Bakasana in Canggu, my funny lifeguard rescue, the smiles, glimpses of simple yet full lives… sure to be back.

“As beautiful as this island is, the real Bali exists primarily in its people– as well as in the mind of the beholder.”

Food / Philippines

The Vegetarian Kitchen

Photos by Ian of firstcomesrock.com

The Vegetarian Kitchen

The Vegetarian Kitchen has been around since 1990 and is considered one of the pioneering vegetarian restaurants in the country. It had closed a few years later, only to reopen in April of 2012. A family of vegetarians, the Soliongcos, run it and are entirely hands-on with everything from the menu planning to the cooking and the restaurant service–a true testament to their passion for food and cooking.

It all started when the family matriarch, Tita Soliongco, was forced to change the way the family ate. After being bored with “conventional” boiled or steamed vegetarian fare, Tita challenged herself and reinvented traditional family recipes to suit the vegetarian palate. It resulted in a repertoire of exciting dishes that were thoughtfully developed for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Reading through the chalkboard menu is such a pleasant surprise. Spareribs, lengua, fish sticks, prawns, caldereta, meatloaf–these dishes are not exactly vegetarian, but vegetable meat alternatives made it possible to recreate home-cooked family favorites with a healthier twist.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's chalkboard menu

If you are craving something with a little spice, order the Vegetarian Shrimp Curry with Yellow Brown Rice & Fresh Mango Slices. It is a recently developed dish and it is still not on the menu, but you might want to try and ask if the kitchen has it available. Each component of the dish makes up a perfect spoonful with the sweetness of the mango balancing the heat of the curry. This will, for sure, be a new bestseller.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's shrimp curry

The Crispy Sesame Fish Sticks (P190) are served in a bowl and rest on a bed of kimchi fried rice with steamed bok choy. The kimchi rice is mildly spiced hence not overpowering, and the bok choy is sprinkled with flavorful nori flakes, which add an interesting crunch.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's fish sticks

If you are in the mood for breakfast food at any time of the day, try the Crispy Vege Danggit with Tofu Tomato Scramble, Camote Tops Salad, & Fried Rice (P220). The vege danggit is light and non-greasy, while the tofu tomato scramble is flavored with turmeric and salt and intends to simulate eggs; it is a vegan meal after all.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's Crispy Vege Danggit

The camote tops salad that came with the vege danggit makes for a tasty side dish.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's camote tops salad

If you are not in the mood for rice meals, we recommend the Couscous Paella with Curried Shrimp Tempura & Eggless Wasabi Mayo (P220). Olives, carrots, beans, and juicy cherry tomatoes are spooned over the couscous, lending a Mediterranean flavor. The curried “shrimp” and all of the vegetable meat alternatives surprisingly taste similar to real animal proteins, and they intend to mimic the texture of real meat.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's couscous paella

The Orange Cheesecake (P140) is a perfect end to a good meal. Creamy and moist with the right amount of citrus flavor, it is not airy as most cheesecakes go.
The Vegetarian Kitchen's orange cheesecake

All of the restaurant’s main dishes are well under P300, and the portions are generous. The Soliongcos continually develop new dishes, and cook through the seasons based on what is affordable and locally available. The menu is also constantly evolving based on customer requests and suggestions. Most of the dishes, in fact, have now been tweaked to suit vegan diets, meaning nothing contains dairy and other animal byproducts.

The Vegetarian Kitchen is a great place not only for those who follow vegetarian diets, but also for people who want to eat better. It definitely opens up a new world of possibilities to healthier eating.

Vibrant vegetarian plates
The Vegetarian Kitchen dishes

The restaurant space is painted in cheery orange-yellow tones, seats about 20 people and can accommodate 8 more in the space outside. TVK can accommodate small private parties as well
The Vegetarian Kitchen

Also published on http://kristn.com

The Vegetarian Kitchen
https://www.facebook.com/TheVegetarianKitchen
62B Mother Ignacia Avenue, Quezon City
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

Food / Philippines

Instagram Photos Roundup

Mostly food pictures from the past months, taken with my cameraphone.

House-made pulled pork sandwich with pickled onions, BBQ sauce, dill pickle at ‘Cue Modern Barbecue (Bonifacio High Street Central, Taguig)
I expected a tangy barbecue flavor from the pulled pork but was a bit disappointed that it tasted quite like Southern-style chili without the heat; it was sour. Not bad but I really did expect a ranch-barbecue flavor. The sweet potato fries are really good.
Cue's pulled pork sandwich

Roast beef and chicken spinach lasagna at Mom and Tina’s Bakery Cafe (Katipunan, QC)
My past dining experiences at Mom and Tina’s Makati left much to be desired, but gladly this was a good meal. Roast beef looked dry, though.
Mom & Tina's

Mom & Tina's lasagna

Garlic Tapa Overload and salmon dish with wild rice at Mr. Jones (Greenbelt 5, Makati)
Always love the tapa at this place. Red / wild rice is supposed to be good for you, but it’s rather hard to wash down.
Mr. Jones garlic tapa overload

Mr. Jones salmon

French deli sandwich at Kuppa (Fort Global City, Taguig)
I never had a sandwich with melted cheese sauce, and this one is not bad at all. The potato wedges were tasty and were seasoned well. After going on a food tour a few weeks back I realise that I have new-found respect for local growers / roasters, establishments buying fair trade, and generally I ought to start supporting the smaller shops and less of the bigwig money-making empires. Kuppa is originally from Bacolod and they roast their own coffee beans in the store.
Kuppa deli sandwich

I am one of those people who can eat the same food everyday and not get tired even after a while. I used to eat tuna sandwiches everyday. At work I have McDonald’s cheeseburgers on a semi-daily basis. That being said, I can eat mango sticky rice and/or pad thai everyday. Too bad it’s not as accessible and affordable in Manila. These are from food shops at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
mango sticky rice!

pad thai

T fed me a pack of Indomie instant migoreng while I was over at their place and I liked it a lot I decided to bring several packs home, only to find out they are also locally available, at SM (P95 for a pack of 5, or P20 for one). The Amazon reviews are funny. “The crack of the ramen world. How can something this cheap be so bloody good. It’s ramen, so it’s as healthy as styrofoam. But oh it is so worth it.”
Indomie mee goreng topped with a fried egg!

Roasted chicken and cereal prawns at Wee Nam Kee (Ayala Triangle Gardens)
This is probably the last proper dinner I had with family, at a time my loved one was still well enough to go out. I cannot even begin to say how this year and the last have been so tough. Hoping & praying for more happy family dinners, despite everything.
Wee Nam Kee roast chicken

Wee Nam Kee cereal prawns

Food / Philippines

Lolo Dad’s

Lolo Dad’s has always been on my ‘someday’ list, until the opportunity presented itself by way of a Deal Grocer offer. The deal wasn’t really a steal to begin with, 38% off for a thousand pesos worth of food– and this strictly applies to one diner; meaning you can’t use two vouchers for one person. While a thousand pesos (US$ 23) barely covers the cost of an entrée, I’m still glad to have finally tried this restaurant, it is one of the best in the country after all, and it definitely did not disappoint.

I was looking forward to trying the menu dégustation to sample the specials of the season, however, they didn’t offer a tasting menu that evening.

Freshly-baked dinner rolls with herbed butter, served hot and are very tasty
Lolo Dad's

Ahi tuna loin and marinated salmon, grilled watermelon with soy vinaigrette and aioli (P264, modest portion)
Lolo Dad's ahi tuna
There was a certain flavor in the salmon that was quite off-putting, and the vinaigrette in the salad is too sharp for my taste. Loved the ahi tuna and the grilled watermelon, with the brown sauce that quite tasted like rendered beef fat. I actually finished those components last, as what I usually do– I eat the best ones last. 😛

Not my dish, but had a taste. The crab salad and the soft-shell crab were very good– but the flavors aren’t out of the ordinary. Soft-shell crab fritter on Gribiche sauce with Dungeness crab, mango, and cucumber (P378, modest portion)Lolo dad's soft shell crab

refreshing lemon sorbet in a clay pot served on a bed of dry ice
Lolo Dad's sorbet

Herbs de Provence crusted rack of lamb, 3-cheese risotto (Roquefort, Gruyere, Parmesan), forty melted garlic and tomato confit (P1,525, regular portion)
Lolo Dad's rack of lamb

I usually don’t like lamb because of the aftertaste, but I’m glad I picked this dish. The lamb was PERFECTLY COOKED. I have learned by now that meat shouldn’t be ordered well-done, and chefs would usually scoff at those who ask for their food to be cooked this way. This was a medium– with no traces of blood, juicy and tender (except at the bone). The herbs de Provence was subtle and not overpowering. The 3-cheese risotto is to die for. The roquefort, I reckon, is the tastiest and added the most depth to the dish.

another angle, with the forty-melted garlic
Lolo Dad's rack of lamb

pan-fried fillet of seabass with blue crab potatoes and smoked salmon filled mushrooms in oyster cream sauce (P1,320, regular portion)
Lolo Dad's Chilean seabass
Now I know why seabass is very pricey. Aside from not being locally available, it literally melts in your mouth when you cook it perfectly. I didn’t believe it until I tried. The flavors are fairly simple– fried fish seasoned with rock salt; and still it was very good. The creamy potatoes are generously drizzled with truffle oil.

dark chocolate and almond layered cake with quenelle of white chocolate mousseline and vanilla almond ice cream (P290, regular portion)
Lolo Dad's dessert
Truth be told, I love savory stuff more than sweets. My favorite part is the mousseline and the fresh berries.

Lucky to have ordered the bestseller entrées, without even having to ask for recommendations from the waitstaff. That being said, I wish I have ordered different starters instead. The dessert isn’t that great, but it’s not bad either.

Service is attentive and unintimidating. I dislike pushy waiters telling you to order more than you should, e.g. wine. The staff at Lolo Dad’s are nothing like that, and I’m glad they aren’t the snotty types either. The place is great for cosy, intimate dinners, and I would be glad to go back again to celebrate special occasions.

More of my Philippines someday list:
The Goose Station
Antonio’s Garden Tagaytay

Lolo Dad’s Cafe
http://www.lolodadscafe.com
899 Pres. Qurino Ave. cor. Leon Guinto St.,
Malate, Manila
Phone: (632)5242295
Mondays: 6:30pm – 10:30pm
Tuesdays to Saturdays: 11:00am – 2:00pm; 6:30pm to 10:30pm
Sundays Closed

Food / Philippines

Whimsical Café Noriter

I now have a somewhat decent camera phone and it has made me take more pictures in the past month or so 🙂 My trusty point and shoot has long given up on me, and for obvious reasons I don’t really carry around my (crop) SLR everyday.

Noriter means playground in Korean, and this cosy themed café indeed has a playful, whimsical feel.
Cafe Noriter
Cafe Noriter

The decor & details are delightful.
Cafe Noriter
Cafe Noriter
Cafe Noriter
Cafe Noriter

Café Noriter serves the usual hot and iced coffee-based beverages, blended drinks, and smoothies. The savory food selection limited to waffles, toast, and sandwiches. They also have ice cream and halo halo.
I really don’t have a sweet tooth (at least I’d like to think so) and I’m glad I ordered the honey bread (Php 120), it’s not too sweet and done just right. Would definitely order this again. Iced café latte, Php 100.
Cafe Noriter
Andrea’s meal
Cafe Noriter French Toast

Café Noriter
Facebook
2nd Flr. Reyes Bldg,
Estrada St. cor. Taft Ave., Malate, Philippines
Mon-Fri: 10:00am – 10:00pm; Sat: 11:00am – 8:00pm
cafenoriter@gmail.com
Phone: (632) 489-5223