Month: November 2015

Are you a My Little Pony Fan?

Tokyo had a cafe with a My Little Pony theme! *Had* because it was a limited offer which ended yesterday.

Sunday Jam partnered with Umajo (a race horse theme park) for this.

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It wasn’t Disneyland, but it sure made Little A smile from ear to ear.

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She was so happy to see her ponies in real life (not really, just in decals)

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You could take photos standing behind the prop.

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Mural on one wall

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They were taking reservations but since we didn’t know, we couldn’t sit on the there. We had to make do with the center tables without Pinkie Pie and Apple Jack looking over our shoulders to see what we are eating.

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The food was surprisingly tasty. I was afraid it was all just hype but I suppose being a cafe first and foremost before a themed one made a difference. This was a chicken sandwich packed with shredded carrots, eggplant and cucumber. The order came with strawberry soymilk.

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This is a savory pancake which was really good. The pancake has a cheese coating! In the middle of the halved pancake are shredded pork and mikan (mandarin orange)– a weird but tasty combo!

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There were MLP merchandise for sale, too.

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And a crane game for the gullib…errr…I mean the fanatics.

I was expecting it to be packed with little kids but the morning we were there, there were mostly adults. There were even men eating on their own. No judgements. I’m just saying there’s a market for these type of themes and they’re not limited to kids! 🙂

Tokyo sure is fun! 😉

 

 

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12/10:  Pure Gastronomic Pleasure!

12/10: Pure Gastronomic Pleasure!

I eat out a lot – at least once a week.  Although I don’t claim to be a connoisseur (not the slightest bit), I’ve become confident about my opinion on what tastes good and what doesn’t, what’s trendy and what will probably last more than 5 years, what’s pure hype and what’s pure talent.

My most recent dinner in 12/10 Guijo Street, Makati, falls under the last category.  I wasn’t expecting much.  I’ve grown wary of these “hipster” places that are situated outside the popular commercial areas.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate individuality and uniqueness; it’s just that all of a sudden, everyone wants to be that way that it starts to become really cookie-cutter.  It’s crazy!  Manila is so full of these industrial/artsy/green/eclectic themed restaurants.  Makes me feel bad for the really authentic ones.

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Anyway, so wary I was…but…my first bite blew away all my defenses (haha!).  The culprit?  Salmon!  I’m so sorry that in my happiness I forgot to take down the details.  All I remember is that the sauce is primarily made of egg.  So sorry!  There goes my career as a food writer!  Haha but I could eat this all day!

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12/10 has an ikakaya-concept which is very similar to tapas – meaning small plates.  What I appreciated was they could adjust the size to the group.  For instance, we could order 1 ½ plates for a dish to satisfy the 3 of us at the table.  That way, we didn’t feel “bitin” and we didn’t over-order either.

The next perfect dish was the salmon kushiyaki – a beautiful combo of salmon, truffle oil, aonori, black sesame, wasabi, curry, and corn flakes.  This one was served yakitori-style and grilled to perfection – a bit rare just the way I like it!

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Yet another perfect dish was the Katsu Sando: basically breaded pork with flavorings yuzu, kosho, tare, red cabbage, kyuri, in the most wonderful siopao bun!  I died!

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What’s not in the picture because it was quite dim during dinner was the Korean fried chicken with charred Eggplant, gochujang, sesame, shiso, and lime.  I liked it but it did not blow me away like the other dishes did.  Oh well, nobody’s perfect!

12/10 is located at 7635 Guijo Street, Makati

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Le Cordon Bleu Tokyo

It might not be obvious to you, dear reader. So let me say it out loud…I love sweets–cakes, pies, ice cream and all sorts pastries. You might also not know that I used to be a cake decorator. My sisters and I ran a small baking and decorating cake operations. Ever since I came to Japan though, I haven’t had the opportunity to decorate cakes anymore. (My sister still does <shameless plug>).
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Oh, how I miss it! Once in a while though, I’d surf Le Cordon Bleu’s site to daydream (‘coz free!) about attending their patisserie course. Just a few months of intense baking and learning from the best chefs!

One time though, I saw a posting for a Master Class to learn from Frédéric Madelaine. I actually thought we were going to learn how to make madelaines when I signed up! They don’t announce what you will learn until the class itself. That day, it was Chocolate Gateaux with Raspberry.

When I got there, I was given an apron and a washcloth for the practical class. Soon enough, we were called in to the kitchen and the class began.

The chef spoke in French and a Japanese translated it to English. I was a little dismayed but since it was hands on, you can see what you need to do and the explanation from the translator was pretty clear. I have a notion though, that, like all things translated, some are lost in translation.
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I worked with my Australian partner, Jessica, who was taking the patisserie course. We shared most of the tasks and she showed me how they clean as they go. I didn’t know that we had to clean up! So for the half part of the class, she was cleaning for the both of us. She’s great like that!
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I wish though I got to bake it all by myself (‘coz that was what I expected for the price I paid!). I did learn a new thing or two from the class. And, learning from an award winning chef is worth the time and price. He joked that the macaron is for another class and another fee.
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After the class, we got to taste the cake the chef made. And we got to take home the cake we made.
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Plus extra jam!

In the meantime, let me go back to daydreaming about the pastry program.

 

A Sky Full of Stars

A Sky Full of Stars

In a time when everything can be had in a click, it’s cool to know that one can still step back, slow down, and look at the stars.

That’s exactly what I did over the weekend of Nov 14-15 through The Mind Museum’s Astro Camp event held at Porac, Pampanga. I was joined by my sister and cousin, and roughly 30 other happy campers of various ages – but surely all young at heart!

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For PhP4,000 per person, The Mind Museum organized an overnight program which included getting to know the rest of the campers, an introduction to the motion of the sky, learning the basics of astrophotography and night photography, hunting for stars and constellations, story-telling, catching the leonids meteor shower, and some simplified astronaut training activities.

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Photo Courtesy of the The Mind Museum Official FB page (https://www.facebook.com/themindmuseum/?fref=ts)

Oh, and one must not forget the tent-pitching (which was my very first!) and the bonfire… and what’s a bonfire without toasted marshmallows and s’mores?!?

I’m not an astronomy-geek (and there sure were a couple of those in our group), but it was a great experience to listen to their stories of all the celestial beings that I have only heard of the first time. It was also great to listen to the history of how different civilizations used the stars to do almost everything. It was like having a really chill history/astronomy class while lying flat on your back, eating s’mores, and pointing out the stars with the coolest laser lights. We called them light sabres because they really looked like the famous Star Wars weapon piercing the very dark starry sky all the way up to God-knows-where. I actually wanted to take one home with me, but of course, they were The Mind Museum’s property (hehe).

The Mind Museum timed the event to coincide with the Leonid meteor showers. Although we did not come during the peak day for the showers, I managed to see 15 falling stars that night! It was really amazing. It was also quite fun each time the group bursts out “Shooting Star!” when we get a visual.

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Photo courtesy of The Treasure Tracker. IG: thetreasuretracker. Website: http://www.trackingtreasure.net

I would recommend this activity to anyone looking for something different. This can appeal to almost anybody. In our group, there were obviously families, but there were also sweethearts, solo campers, and groups of friends. I have not been stargazing since the 80’s – back when my father took us to the beach to try to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet. It’s a shame that I have not done this more often. Watching a sky full of stars really allows one to reflect and appreciate the enormity of the world we live in.  Suddenly, our big problems and worries are not really that big anymore…

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5 Travel Hacks for the Pinoy Traveler

My well-worn boots will attest to the fact that I love to travel. It’s one of the few things that can clear my mind and relieve me of the anxieties of everyday living. And so, in my travel experiences, I’ve picked up some tips that have made it more convenient for me (as if I needed more motivation) to get out my travel gear and go.

  1. Check the exchange rate in your country vis-à-vis the country you are traveling to.

I normally bring US dollars when I travel because it is the most widely accepted currency. But recently, I discovered that some currencies actually have a better exchange rate here in the Philippines. Take for example the Japanese Yen and recently, the Canadian dollar. People would actually convert money in the Philippines to get more bang for their buck. It will involve a little research, but if you could stretch your money, it could be well worth it!

  1. Bring foldable umbrellas. And while you’re at it, check the weather.

I used to leave things, like weather, to chance. But, after amassing a ton of umbrellas that I already have too much of to begin with, I realized that I would fare better if I just brought my own all the time. Of course, you have to be aware that these need to be checked in. Otherwise, it will be thrown away together with all the bagoong jars and whatnot in customs trashcans.

  1. Use shower caps to wrap your shoes.

This was the advice that my niece gave me. Every day, the cleaning lady would stock my bathroom pantry with new goodies and I always wondered what I would do with the shower caps so I normally left those behind. But, as my niece pointed out, shower caps make perfect bags for my shoes. It’s not big and messy like plastic, and the elastic secures the shoes.

  1. Hook your luggage keys.

Because of the advent of the tanim-bala, I have started locking my luggage. I never did before because I always lost the keys either during the trip, or after, when I’m storing my luggage. Now, once I lock my bag, I hook the keys (with the help of a key ring) to the zipper of my purse. Then, after the trip, I put the lock and the keys on the zipper of the luggage. Now, I never have to look for them!

  1. Bring your own tabo.

Yes, as I’ve said, this is for the Pinoy traveler. Not all countries have bidets. And like most Filipinos, I really need to use a tabo. Tired of using the tiny plastic cups the hotels normally provide, I went in search of my own travel tabo. I found this foldable beauty in the kitchen section of the local Daiso and knew that it would come in handy. It flattens, so there is no hassle at all in packing it up.

 

Well, I hope you learned something for your next travel adventure! Happy travels!

Revisiting Hai Shin Lou

Revisiting Hai Shin Lou

Hai Shin Lou has been a staple team-lunch place for me and my workmates since the early 2000’s.  Despite the unassuming venue, it has attracted more than it’s share of taipans who obviously know where to get the best Chinese food. I’ve had a few sightings myself during some of my visits. It’s been a while since I’ve been back though, but I’m glad to share that it still is the reliably good place that it was as when it first opened.

Their most popular item must be their fried wonton – and it’s free!  I don’t even have a picture of the delectable appetizer since it’s usually gone the moment it’s placed on the table.  It’s so addictively good that my friends would ask me to bring some back for them when they know I’m headed there for lunch.

For this visit, we tried items that we’ve not had on their menu, including:

Soyed chicken

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My new favorite, fish fillet with homemade beancurd in hotpot

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Deep fried shrimp balls

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Sizzling squid with tausi

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And of course, we must not forget the peppercorn spareribs

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Hai Shin Lou is located at 810 Arnaiz Ave., (Formerly Pasay Rd.) San Lorenzo Village, Makati City

Potty Around the World

Potty Around the World

Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise where you can find anything for anybody. With all the markets, malls, pop-up stores, and boutiques dotted around the city, it pays to be a bit more creative to draw in the shoppers.

I give props to Terminal 21, a retail complex located at the very busy Sukhumvit area, for doing just that.  Personally, the stores are not what I would go for – nothing too unique for my taste. But the restrooms in the around-the-world-themed complex are quite interesting. If you are ever in the area, it won’t hurt to drop by, grab a snack, and check them out.

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Above, enter a SanFo hipster bakery. BTW, all the restrooms have a floor-to-ceiling glass wall with amazing views of Sukhmvit.

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On the next floor, I’m transported to a souk in Istanbul.

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Then, I’m suddenly in a London underground station.

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Next stop, Kyoto 🙂

Terminal 21 is located at 88 Sukhumvit Soi 19 88 Sukhumvit Road

Puritan, Bangkok

Puritan, Bangkok

Bangkok is the foreign city I’ve visited the most – 6 times in the last decade.  I think I could almost act as a tour guide, especially through the foodie destinations I’ve frequented.  Each visit is always a great experience as Bangkok always has something for everyone – the culture vulture, the foodie, the shopaholic, the partyphile, the hipster, I mean everyone!

For this visit, as with my last few ones, I have tried to avoid the tourist-haunts and head for some of the unique places that appeal to my eccentric sensibilities.  One place that fits the bill is a café called Puritan in the Ari district.  This district reminds me a bit of the Maginhawa area in Quezon City, which is more residential than “city” and dotted with unique, cool, and unassuming shops and restaurants.

People who know me well know how much of a vintage junkie I am.  I started early, at age 14, when wearing vintage was not a thing. My love for vintage has progressed from clothes, to small decorative items, to major household décor.  So it’s really a no-brainer why I loved Puritan so much!

The place looks like a house of a cool collector – the kind of stuff I like.  Think Iris Apfel transplanted to Bangkok.  Or think 1998-version Great Expectations movie.  They had a wild mix of paintings, chandeliers and other light fixtures, beautiful china, mismatched old world tables and chairs, all kinds of curios, with plants to brighten up the space.  It was a perfect setting for a great cup of coffee and cake.

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The cakes were a story all its own.  Apparently, the baker and owner, who lives right above the café, bakes different cakes each day.  So you will always have a pleasant surprise with every visit.  Everything looked so tempting that it was a challenge to choose!  We ended up getting a very rich dark chocolate with a selection of berries and a mousse-like cake with blackberries.  Heaven!

The Puritan is not for everybody.  But if you love vintage and are charmed with old the old-world and eccentric…then it’s not a bad idea to drop by when you’re in Bangkok.

Puritan is located at 39 Soi Ari 5, Samsennai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok

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