Flashback Friday! On March 2011, I visited Cambodia to celebrate the Birthday of one of my closest friends Carmina. We were a party of nine and stayed in Siem Reap, explored the city at night and toured the Angkor Archeological Park during the day. I had read that Angkor was a vast lost city in the jungle but it exceeded my expectations. I was awed by the size of Angkor (seventeen times bigger than Manhattan), the intricate design of the temples, the beauty of the bas-reliefs and the mystery of the area. It was humid, there were many tourists (including some that were extremely pushy and cut us in line when we were trying to take a photo by a tree) but it was one of the most magical places that I have visited.
Some photos from Angkor....
Last Thursday, local sandwich shop Sandwich Emporium (Peter, John and I run the shops) held a grilled cheese pop up at neighborhood tasting lounge The Poseidon Project. Our friend, Kirk suggested the collaboration and we had a blast.
After days of tasting different cheeses, experimenting with new combinations and passionate arguments over recipes, four grilled cheeses (and a create your own) were put on the menu.
Scenes from the pop up.....
The Manila food scene is exploding. I grew up in the Philippines (Manila and Baguio) and visit my mom yearly. I am amazed that Manila has transformed into a food city with a myriad of international cuisines, brands and franchises. Local restauranteurs are also launching new concepts and Filipino food is being reinvented and served in new and innovative ways. In the 80's and 90's there were very good restaurants, but they were few. For me, the best food then was home cooking and many social gatherings were in people's houses.
Now, when I am in town, my friends and family usually eat out and explore the many new options.
My list of great restaurants and the dishes that I enjoyed..
Happiness quotes spark inspiration and boost my mood. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. "Happiness depends upon ourselves." - Aristotle
2. "I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles." - Audrey Hepburn
3. "If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you." - Lao Tzu
4. "There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will" - Epictetus
5. "Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife." - Franz Schubert
6. "Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy." - Benjamin Franklin
7. "Whoever is happy will make others happy too." - Anne Frank
8. "Enjoy the Journey"....Caltex Slogan (i didn't realize this was their slogan until I read an article about my mom, Amy Gustilo Lopez, who was Miss Caltex '69 in the Philippines.)
9. "He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe." - Marcus Aurelius
10. "Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." - Marcus Aurelius
11. “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.” - John Lennon
12. "True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
13. "Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness." - Buddha
14. "Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss
It's funny how hashtags can influence behavior. Every #TBT aka Throwback Thursday or #FBF aka Flash Back Friday, I think of a past trip or look at an old family photo and have a desire to share it. For today's #FBF, I remember a special dinner.
I was in Manila last December to visit my Mom and had dinner at Mecha Uma in Global City. I heard a lot about culinary wunderkind Chef Bruce Ricketts who was making waves in the Manila food scene and studied in San Diego (his very lovely grandmother Tita Edith is a long time San Diego resident). His food is described as "global cuisine with Japanese inflections" and friends who ate at his restaurants raved about the quality of his ingredients. I was curious, intrigued and decided to take my mom for an early New Year's dinner before heading back to the States.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a reservation for the omakase chef's tasting menu and sit at the interactive Chef's table but the a la carte menu was impressive and our server did a wonderful job explaining the dishes. The food is definitely worth the hype and I admire his creativity. The understated ambiance (the restaurant is small and intimate), the "oh my gosh absolutely delicious" food (Mecha Uma translates to "absurdly delicious"), plus the friendly and knowledgeable staff made our meal unforgettable. It was the perfect place for a mother daughter dinner.
25th Street, between 5th & 6th Ave.
RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center
Bonifacio South, Fort Bonifacio
My friend Candice invited me to "Feast With Friends" collaboration dinner last Monday with Chef DJ Tangalin (JRDN) & Chef Phil Esteban (Cork & Craft) and Fallbrook Winery at JRDN at the Tower23 Hotel in Pacific Beach. It is a joy eating with her. She goes to interesting events, knows a lot about the food and beer industry, and has a great sense of humor which makes her a fantastic dining companion for 3 hour meals. We met through our friend Kirk, super world traveler foodie extraordinaire.
Since the chefs are Filipino American, I was curious if any dishes would be Filipino inspired.
I was in Manila last year and had a Filipino inspired degustation dinner at Vask Modern Tapas and Gastronomic Cuisine and it was exciting seeing Filipino dishes prepared and presented as innovative high cuisine.
Seeing the pretty and intricate dishes reaffirmed the saying that cooking is an art and after seeing the "horseradish styrofoam" also a science.
I always associated Fallbrook with avocado groves and never knew that there were vineyards. After tasting the wines from the Fallbrook Winery, I want to visit.
I love looking at old travel photos. These are 2 of my favorites...my parents Amy and Macky Lopez, boarding a Philippine Airlines flight for their honeymoon in 1969. My grandparents gave them a 6 month trip and they departed from Manila and journeyed to Europe, North America, South America and Asia. Their first stop was San Francisco. I love that they dressed up to travel and that their shoes, with the Mod 60's buckles, were matching. They were young, talented with bright futures ahead. Of course life has it's twists, turns and dramas (they had their challenges) but at that moment when they were about to fly off and start their life together, what I see in the photos is the titillation and optimism of a new couple embarking on a great adventure and the jittery excitement of ineffable wanderlust.
Every time I see these photos, I want to hug my Dad, who passed away 8 years ago and book a flight to a place that I have never been to. On my travel bucket list...Berlin.
This is one of my favorite travel photos. My cousin Frannie and me (Peter was also with us) visited Halong Bay in 2015. The bay was stunning but our boat ride was pretty horrible. We spent days walking around Saigon and Hanoi and were looking forward to a relaxing Halong Bay "cruise". I envisioned having cocktails at sunset and dining on fresh Vietnamese seafood dishes in an elegant junk boat with majestic sails. We paid for a "deluxe" cruise and were told that there would be 10 passengers. There were more than double the people on board, our room and bathroom were dilapidated and dirty and the blankets and towels had stains. The food was extraordinary terrible....moldy bread, instant ramen noodles and a puny fish divided by 6 people that was so small that by the time it got to Frannie and Peter all that was left was the head. Entertainment was beer pong with muddy looking beer served from a pail. It was an overnight "cruise" and early the next day, a man banged on our door and window, woke us up and commanded that we stay on deck till the end of the trip.
We were hungry, tired and felt duped.
Thankful for travel partners who, when all is horrible, can just take a selfie, laugh, and enjoy the ride.
Our attempt at a romantic photo remake 😳
Happy Valentine's Day 🌹
Last week, on January 25, was a night of creative feasting and joie de vivre at Common Theory's "Theory No 1" featuring AleSmith Brewing Co collaboration dinner. Nine chefs from top restaurants served creative and elegant (not your typical pub fare) dishes using meat, poultry, fish and even blood paired with AleSmith Brewing Company beers. I attended with four friends and we had a blast.
Tasting menus and degustation dinners can be serious and formal but this was gregarious, communal and fun. I felt like I was at a party.