January 29, 2009

Barcelona, Tapas24

I am a full-blooded chocoholic. But even for an expert in the matter like me, the combination of chocolate and salt sounded a little to experimental. Boy was I wrong! Tapas24 in Barcelona made me a believer. Our culinary friends brought us there, as it is known in the industry to be one of the best tapas bar in the city. We couldn’t not have tapas while in Barcelona, so D. and I happily obliged. But before I had my life changing choco-salt experience, my palate was delighted by other delicious delights.

We had scrumptious Croquetas with Jamon Serrano and Tapa d’Or, which is a simple combination of tasty squished tomatoes, rock salt and fruity extra virgin olive oil. The ingredients sound so common, but their quality made all the difference! But we all agreed that the Chistorra (type of chorizo) dish was to die for and we promptly order a second one. Imagine tasty chorizo bits, mixed with fried scrambled eggs over home-made fries! I meant to replicate this seemingly easy and yet mind-blowing dish ever since we got back, but simply haven’t found the time to do it yet. 

The sweet tooth in me simply couldn’t leave this place without dessert. Still full and happy from the many tapas, we just ordered one item on the short dessert menu: Chocolate Ganache with Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil. I figured I could always just eat the ganache if I didn’t like the fancy add-ons. But oh no!! The combination of the three flavors was a match in heaven. The sweetness of the chocolate was counterbalanced by the salt crystals, which added an interesting texture to it as well, while the fruitiness of the oil gave it a perfect ending. 

I suppose you can’t use you regular supermarket olive oil to achieve this dish, but picture my excitement when my dad brought back chocolate bars with fleur de sel in them! Tapas24 is a place I’d recommend without hesitation to anyone who gets the chance to go to Barcelona! People don’t line up in the street for it for no reason!

Tapas 24
Diputacio 269
Metro: Passeig de Gracia or Placa de Catalunya

January 26, 2009

So worth it...

It’s been over 2 weeks since I started my new job, so I figured it might be time for a quick status check. Mostly I’ve come to the conclusion, that all my apprehensions were unfounded. I couldn’t have made a better decision than to quit my old position and move to VMV Hypoallergenics. I am still overwhelmed as I realize how much I need to learn. But I feel alive again at the same time. I read somewhere that “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty”. That is exactly how I felt a few months back. 

Don’t get me wrong I used to love my work, but somehow I felt out of love if that makes any sense. It became routine and I soon knew I wasn’t learning anything anymore. I realize that now more than I did back then. My brain is on work-mode 24/7. I’m already running behind catching up on study materials and industry reports. I’m breathless and I absolutely adore it.

I give a lot of credit to the novelty of the situation of course. Just like a kid with a new toy I am all giddy and excited. But I think there’s more to it. I see myself being passionate about this job, just as I had envisioned it when I interviewed with VMV. The people, the products and the philosophy suit me well. I wonder if they think I fit in… It’s too early to judge but all I can say is that whoever is doubtful that change is a good thing. Take a leap of faith. Don’t find yourself stuck in the past, wondering what if?

January 20, 2009

My Top 10 on Boracay Food

Boracay is not what it used to be. My family and I went to this island for the first time in 1992 for my grandparents’ 50th Golden Anniversary celebration. Back then, there were very few resorts, most of them just simple bamboo huts with no hot water or aircon. Restaurants were a luxury as well. We would buy our meals at the market and have the cook at the resort prepare it for us. It was simple but it was paradise! The beach with pristine white sand and the water clear turquoise blue, made it picture perfect. 

The Robinson Crusoe days are over. Hundreds of thousands of tourists pilgrim to Boracay every year, hoping for the paradise experience. But with more fame come also the downside of mass-tourism: the over-population, over-commercialization and pollution of the island. But let’s focus on the good things right now. Despite it all, a trip to Boracay is still worthwhile. While there are more remote places to go to in the Philippines, Boracay could be considered your one-stop-shop. Whether you’re looking for luxury or budget vacations, local or international cuisine, sport activities or party mecca, this island has it all. 

Here my 2 cents on the Top 10 restaurants (in no particular order) I try to never miss out on when in Boracay:

1. Chorizo burger a.k.a. Choriburger – spicy/sweet chorizo in a hotdog bun, try out Mymy’s cart near Gasthof, D’Mall, Station 2

2. Arya Restaurant – delicious Italian food, I love the Pizza Aria with parma ham and the Truffle and parma ham Tagliatelle, D’Mall

3. MaƱanas Restaurant – Mexican food, I never miss out on fresh baked nachos with dips and the chicken fajitas, end of Station 2

4. St. Michel Creperie– to satisfy my sweet tooth, also at D’Mall

5. Fish Bar – Everything seafood, we tried it for the first time this trip and will definitely come back for more, D’Mall

6. Seawind Buffet – all-you-can-eat fresh seafood and inihaw in a beautiful beachfront setting, Station 1

7. Gasthof – ribs, ribs and more ribs as well as other grill foods, D’Mall

8. Kasbah – lamb tangine, couscous and hummus. Didn’t try the skewers, but they were highly recommended. Very nice setting, next to Discovery Shores, Station 1

9. Hawaiian Bar-B-Que – succulent baby back ribs and coconut shrimps, end of Station 2

10. Dos Mestizos – Everyone raves about it and I still haven’t made it there… On my to-do list for next trip. Near tourist center, Station 3

January 18, 2009

I'm back!

I was never been a huge fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations. From spending it with family at home, to partying with friends in overpriced and overcrowded clubs, to being stuck in a snowstorm, to simply enjoying it on my own - I have had it all. I was indifferent to NYE. This year was to be different. These were the first holidays my family got to spend together again after 4 years and after a blissful Christmas, we were off to Boracay to spend the remaining days of 2008 at the beach. Despite the stress of traveling – read delayed flights and failed landing – we were all excited to get to enjoy the beautiful white beach. Also to make things more meaningful, this was also the first time D’s and my family were to spend a vacation together. Everyone was in high spirits! But lucky me it didn’t last. 

On the day before NYE I started feeling feverish and sick, but I figured a little rest would do the trick. The next day I was still not my old jolly self so I ordered myself more sleep since I wanted to be fit and healthy for the night’s celebration. I started having stomach cramps and know something was wrong. For NYE dinner we were all booked at Seawind. Our friend’s band was playing when we got there, we were seated by the beach, lights were lit all over and some fireworks were being fired over the water. My stomachache got so bad, that I couldn’t even eat. Instead of pigging out on a scrumptious buffet, I had two cups of chamomile tea… And while everyone was having fun and enjoying themselves, I felt miserable. At 10pm I was in so much pain, I asked D. to bring me back to my room. 

We spent midnight watching Pirates of the Caribbean on TV. For years, my sweetheart has been looking forward to spending NYE in Boracay, see the (so they say) impressive fireworks and party until dawn. And now here we were and he missed it for me. A couple of hours later, his parents, who are both doctors, examined me and told me it might be appendicitis but that we should wait until the morning. So I tried to sleep. At 7am, his dad came to check on me again and decided we should fly me back to Manila as soon as possible. If the diagnosis proved to be true, if was safer and easier for me to be in Manila and have the appendectomy performed there. A doctor from the D’Mall clinic arrived and set me an IV – I have a deep aversion to needles. While everyone was frantically calling fully booked airlines and even considered chartering a plane, I realized that not only was I never excited about New Year but also that I was just experiencing the worst start into the new year ever. 

With all the commotion around me, everything from then on feels like a movie. We decided to try out as chance passengers, so we got into a van to the jettyport. I remember getting into the boat with D. holding my IV-bag. At the Caticlan airport I found myself sitting in a wheelchair, while my mom negotiated with the airline. As I wasn’t allowed to bring the IV into the plane, D’s dad had to remove it then and there. Blood spilled all over – I also have a deep aversion to blood! Other tourists were staring at me and I just remembered thinking that my stomachache wasn’t even as bad anymore. Back in Manila, we went straight to the hospital and a few tests and waits later, I was lying on the operating table begging the anesthesiologist to knock me out properly! 

I don’t recall much of the few hours after waking up, aside from the pain of course. D. stayed at hospital throughout my stay, sleeping on a tiny bench next to me, nursing me and simply keeping me company... At least I’m now sure he’ll stick to me in sickness and in health! I was in pain for almost a week, walking as fast a turtle and not being able to sleep on my tummy. I had to postpone the starting date of my new job. I have an ugly scar to remind me of January 1, 2009. It was dramatic, painful and threw everyone’s plans off. But aside from starting the year with a bang, I also started it surrounded by love. Hey, maybe NYE is not so bad after all…


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