a place in the world

Indonesia / Writing


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
62B Mother Ignacia Avenue, Quezon City
Open Tuesdays to Saturdays: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm

Life / Writing

so this is the new year and i don’t feel any different

From Neil Gaiman’s blog:

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.
So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.
And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.
So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.

Bravery and joy.
It’s exactly what I wish for myself as well. Both have eluded me for so long.

Here’s to a brighter year ahead.

France / Writing

pique-nique au Champs de Mars

Eiffel at dusk

After spending the day at the shops, we head to the neighborhood Monoprix and bought a few things for dinner. We decided to spend the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower grounds, at the Champs de Mars.

Our little spread.

picnic at Champs de Mars

It was such a fine evening, and I’m glad I took a few nice pictures at least.
Below is my favorite photo of the Eiffel; it actually gets more crowded as you get closer to the tower. People sat and lay on the grass, chatting, having picnics and drinks, celebrating birthdays, singing, cuddling, making music. A tall steel tower with twinkling lights, the sound of French chatter and pleasant, happy people all around, Dutch cheese and balsamique crisps, the cool grass and the neatly trimmed hedges, and an evening much warmer than the one prior. I am reminded of why I decided to come to this place.

Eiffel Tower from Champs de Mars
picnic at Champs de Mars 

France / Writing

the terrace view at Printemps

After visiting Galeries Lafayette, we walk to another department store called Printemps. The Printemps flagship store is by this area, and the top floor (9th) offers a pretty view of the city.

This is my favorite picture from this early evening.
love, Printemps

The Haussmannian view, I cannot say it enough, that this city was designed so well. Haussmann probably destroyed whatever was unsightly during his time, redesigned buildings, and established certain standards on future constructions.
Baron Haussmann's  beautiful city

Not related to Paris, but the layout of the Eixample area in Barcelona (Spain) is also amazing!

Truth be told, the cafe with the unappealing sandwiches looked a bit sad. Glad there is beer from the tap! Ordered a blonde Leffe.
Leffe with a view

Enjoying the view and our drinks, people watching
tourists at Printemps
hanging out at Printemps
Leffe at Printemps

City views: Pantheon area and the Montmartre area.

Pantheon area from Printemps
Montmartre from Printemps

64 Boulevard Haussmann
Metro: Havre Caumartin

France / Writing

window shopping at Galeries Lafayette

After almost a week of museums and touristy sights, we decided to take it a easier on our seventh day in France. We spent the morning at Forum des Halles, which is a shopping centre near our rented apartment. The Les Halles area used to be the belly of Paris, the central marketplace– and it had been so for centuries, until the congestion had become so bad that they had to relocate the market elsewhere. It is now in Rungis, in the Southern suburbs of Paris, and it is said to be the largest food market in the world.

Had lunch at L’Entrecote des Halles and took the metro to Paris’s iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette.

The grand Belle Epoque dome
The grand belle epoque dome of Galeries Lafayette

Granted, the place mostly caters to tourists than locals and I’m quite sure most of the shoppers are just visiting. At some point, Chinese tourists asked if we could buy bags for them, using our passports. I’ve heard of this before because some friends already had the same experience. There is a limit of bag purchases for tourists of certain nationalities because of the widespread counterfeiting of the bags.

The grand Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette

A closer photo of the dome
a closer look at the belle epoque dome

The Pierre Hermé store, apparently they have the best macarons, even better than Ladurée. I had quite a list of food shops / pâtisseries I wanted to try and I regret not even going to most of them. (Jean-Paul Hevin, Ladurée, Dalloyau, Poilane, Eric Kayser..) Moodiness get the best of me.
macarons from Pierre Herme

Galeries Lafayette
Paris Haussmann
40, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette, Opéra or
RER: (A) Auber or (E) Haussmann St Lazare

Food / France

Plat du Jour menu at L’entrecote des halles

After a bit of shopping at Forum des Halles, we walked around Rue Saint-Denis to look for a place to eat. Staying at the Chatelet area now (1st arrondisement), there are so many options, from panini and kebab stalls to jazz bars and brasseries. We typically alternated between fastfood and proper sit-down meals.

L’entrecote des halles interiors and the bar. I love these old-fashioned implements.
L'Entrecote des Halles
L'Entrecote des Halles

My order: soupe l’oignon and steak frites (around €12, plat du jour)
L'Entrecote's French onion soup
Steak frites at L'Entrecote des Halles

A’s salade and magret (duck) dish (around €12, plat du jour)
Salade at L'Entrecote
Duck dish

L’entrecote des halles
38 Rue Saint-Denis 75001 Paris, France
01 42 21 99 16

Books / Writing

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

“There was this notion in my mind that somehow yoga was going to make me better. Better than I’d been, better than everyone else. More virtuous. I liked the idea of myself as a yoga person. (I could not bring myself to say yogi, or yogini.) Lithe, probably thin, with some kind of ineffable glow. And my back wouldn’t hurt.”

I finished this book a month ago. As a person who has had an on and off yoga practice over the years, I loved the bits on yoga, I find myself relating to most of the writer’s experiences and insights, it’s the most highlighted book I read this year, in fact.
I loved Claire Dederer’s idea of relating certain yoga poses to various points of her life, but the latter chapters I find were haphazard and quite confusing. I honestly didn’t care about most of the other topics, except when she was talking about yoga. I lost interest halfway into it but I forced myself to finish because every now and then I stumbled upon ‘gems’.
Claire wrote about having difficulties with chaturanga dandasana and the wheel, I struggled with the same and I am quite convinced my body is not meant to do these poses even if I try so hard. Chaturanga is an important transition pose as you move through the vinyasa flow, and I would always feel awkward not being able to stay in this pose with integrity, that is with the elbows bending at 45 degrees, my knees not resting on the floor, and the belly not dropping. When it is time to do inversions, I find the rest of the class opening up their chests with ease, meanwhile I lie in corpse pose unable to lift myself to do a wheel. It’s a bit comforting to know some people have certain asanas they cannot do well.
Reading this book served as a reminder of how I needed yoga in my life and I need to get back on the mat real soon.

I thought I would do yoga all my life, and I thought that I would continue to improve at it, that I would penetrate its deepest mysteries and finally be able to perform a transition from scorpion directly into chaturanga. But here’s the truth: The longer I do yoga, the worse I get at it. I can’t tell you what a relief it is.
I did yoga because of an idea I had of who I wanted to be: serene, fit, spiritual.
For years, yoga had been the one place where I paid attention to how I was feeling. I did the poses and actually, right there in that moment, felt them.
Those of you who are really bad at yoga, you’re in the right place. I hope everyone will allow themselves to be really crappy today, to walk away from being perfect. The real yoga isn’t in the perfect pose; it’s in the crappy pose that you are really feeling. You want to feel it from the inside out, rather than make it perfect from the outside in.
When your teacher shows you how something is done, there’s a feeling of possibility, a transmittal of something like faith. Yes, this can be done. I’m seeing it right before my eyes.
t was easy to think of yoga as a cure, a program, a teleology. You were going to end up somewhere really great if you just stuck with it. I often thought about what yoga would give me: yoga butt, open hamstrings, equilibrium, a calm mind, that mysterious yoga glow. And it was true, a person would be more likely to have those things if she went to yoga than if she, say, played Tetris for hours on end. (Always an option.)
The idea was, you got better, looser, stronger while you were at yoga, and then you exported that excellence to the rest to life. You learned how to act right at yoga, and then you acted right, or righter, when you were in your car, or at the grocery store, or putting your children to bed.
I had discovered something; there was a pleasure in becoming something new. You could will yourself into a fresh shape. Now all I had to do was figure out how to do it out there, in my life.
Books / Writing

On Reading

SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED to me on the metro recently: I learned to read. I know it didn’t happen all at once, but today it felt like someone flicked a switch. Suddenly the lights went on inside my head and the words passed through, like one of those healings you read about at a tent revival, where blind men see and mute children speak.
Reading, the pleasure I most took for granted, finally restored. I looked around me, wondering if anyone had noticed. No one did. I was part of the urban wallpaper.
from Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard

I used to read a lot of some fiction when I was younger, so most of my books are from that genre. In my mid-twenties my tastes changed and I bought more of travel & food literature. My real bookshelf is practically untouched now, except for when I need to look something up.
This might sound terribly corny, but finally purchasing an ebook reader sort of changed my life, so much that I have separation anxiety with the device even if I’ll be away for a couple of hours.
I have close to 700 lovingly curated books in my e-library, no random stuff or trashy romances. I have been more interested in nonfiction as I grew older, specifically travel narratives, memoirs, cookbooks (even if I don’t really cook!), and food literature. I probably have more than enough ebooks now to last me a lifetime.

Favorites so far (July – Sept 2012):

Blankets, Craig Thompson (graphic novel)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson
Lunch in Paris, A Love Story with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard

P.S. I do realize that I mentioned having “no trashy romances” but I did read the first Fifty Shades of Grey book. It was a waste of time.