May 5, 2015

SPRING AT LAST!

After what felt like an endless winter, spring has sprung at last! Though I am still on my last frantic weeks of tying up loose ends for graduate school, I've stolen time here and there to enjoy the beautiful magnolia blooms and cherry blossoms all over the city, even whipping out my laptop on a park bench just to do so. I noticed today though that the petals are starting to fall, bringing this beautiful time of the year to a close. So if you haven't done so already, I urge you to take every spare second to enjoy this gorgeousness while it lasts!

March 25, 2015

MIAMI VICE

Oh Miami, how can I quit you? I'm experiencing serious vitamin sea withdrawal after five blissfully balmy days in Miami. Back in New York, it's winter that simply won't quit. So until it lets us out of its chilly grasp, I'll have to count on the memories from our little spring break to keep me warm!


After months of nonstop work, school and thesis research, it was heaven to lie on the beach for days and (mostly) do nothing (ok, I did some grad school reading from my lounge chair but you know what they say about old dogs). We found the perfect quiet little spot near 30th and Collins and parked our towels there practically every day.


We instantly fell in love with the city's long stretches of beach, aquamarine waters and art deco style. Miami is a city full of enticing contradictions: chill but also exciting, historic and yet emerging on scene.


Strangely enough, the best meal we had was at Indomania, which by some quirk of fate, serves the Indonesian rijsttafel - an Indonesian tasting menu concocted by the Dutch back in colonial times. If there ever was a way to give a Dutch guy and a Southeast Asian girl an existential crisis about why they are living in frigid climates, it's finding a fantastic rijstaffel in a glorious location like Miami.


Further deepening this aforementioned existential crisis, we got a very cool peek at how the lovely people of this city live, thanks to my friend Alida, who has come to Miami by way of New York and Lima. We enjoyed sunset drinks and dinner with a Miami Vice feel at The Standard's Lido Grill, wine in what felt like someone's very cool backyard at Lagniappe, solid Miami-flavored music by Spam Allstars at Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana, and dinner surrounded by wicked urban art at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.


But if there was one place that truly stole my heart, it was the Broken Shaker at the Freehand Hostel. While our dutiful consumption of (and subsequent knockout from) the requisite salad bowl-sized mojitos in an Ocean Drive tourist-trap was unforgettable in its own way, it is the Broken Shaker's Thai Tea Old Fashioned that I will be pining for constantly: Old Forester Bourbon stirred with Thai tea reduction and a touch of cream. YUM. The poolside sunset view is not too shabby either.


It was extremely heartbreaking to return to a New York blanketed in a fresh coat of snow after 5 days of summery bliss in Miami, but we were grateful for the chance to get to know this amazing city and look forward to coming back. So goodbye for now, Miami ... pero hasta luego, sin duda! 

February 15, 2015

CHIHULY GARDEN AND GLASS

In the middle of this gray and unrelenting winter, we need all the color we can get. On our visit to Seattle's Chihuly Garden and Glass, we got a much needed boost of light and color that made us forget all about the dreary weather outside.


This exhibition showcases the breathtaking glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, whose work you may have already encountered if you've been inside the Bellagio in Las Vegas, where the stunning 70 feet long Fiori di Como glass sculpture hangs above the lobby.

Visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass is like entering a glassblown wonderland full of fanciful forms and saturated hues. One of the most stunning pieces inside is the Sea Life Tower, all 20 feet of undulating blown glass in various shades of blue cradling intricately detailed starfish, sea urchins, coral and other underwater creatures.


Entering the Mille Fiori room feels like entering a beautiful alien landscape. Inspired by the garden tended by Chihuly's mother during his childhood, this installation manages to convey a feeling of familiarity and fantasy at the same time.


The Ikebana and Float Boats' visuals and backstory are equally delightful. When Chihuly was in Nuutajarvi, Finland in the 1990s, he had an idea to throw his sculptures from a bridge into the river below to treat the glass. Finnish teenagers would then take the glass sculptures, load them into their fishing boats, and bring them back to the shore. Chihuly took a liking to how the sculptures looked all piled up in the boat and immortalized the memory in this piece.


We also really enjoyed the Chandelier Room, filled with monumental pieces suspended from the ceiling. These luminous and organic chandeliers have such an otherworldly feel.


The centerpiece of the exhibition is the Glass House, which holds Chihuly's most tremendous piece yet: a 100-foot glass wreath of fiery-hued blossoms that manage to convey a feeling of light and playful movement, in spite of its enormity. This gorgeous piece can make even the gloomiest Seattle day bright, I tell you!


Outside, the garden is dotted with more of Chihuly's work. Despite being constructed out of glass, Chihuly's pieces have an organic feel to them that make them seem right at home in nature.


The exhibition closes with a row of chandeliers leading to a small theater where films of Chihuly's exhbitions and installations around the world are shown. We daydreamed of someday having one of these chandeliers in our future home—dreams that were promptly shattered under the harsh light of reality when we stepped into the gift shop, where small Chihuly vases were sold for $8,000 apiece!


I suppose Chihuly's work is meant to remain in my dreams ... but I'm quite content with such vibrant and glorious dreams. If you find yourself in Seattle looking for a jolt of color and light to brighten up a gloomy day, I highly recommend paying a visit to Chihuly Glass and Garden.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is located at 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, Washington 98109.

January 25, 2015

WE GOT PLATED


Let's be honest, January can be a bit of a depressing month. After a month of festivities with family and friends, we get to go back to real life, where the wine is much diminished and mom's cooking is just a distant memory. My January's been much improved, however, thanks to the following:

  1. Having J to enjoy the fine January New York climate with (i.e. Nor'easter cuddling)
  2. Winter break from grad school (i.e. having a 9-to-5 instead of a 9-to-9)
  3. Plated deliveries (i.e. a subscription service that allows us to successfully pretend that we're the fabulous, imaginative cooks we've always suspected we were deep inside)
Of the three improvements, #3 is actually replicable for those suffering through Winter so let me tell you more about that that.

Plated is basically a curated grocery delivery service that brings pre-measured ingredients for specific meals straight to your doorstep for $12 a plate. That may seem pricey but consider the advantages. Plated allows you to casually whip up Massaman chicken curry for dinner without having to hunt down ingredients in Chinatown and Whole Foods Gowanus (plus the inevitable emergency run to your local bodega when you realize you forgot to buy chicken base). Food subscription services like Plated are ideal for people who live in cities where groceries are really expensive anyway (check!); whose cooking repertoire is limited to a rotation of five dishes (check!); and who would rather not get stuck with a cupboard full of spices and ingredients last used in 2012 (I'm looking at you, ancient bottle of furikake). Oh, and even though it is a subscription service, you have the flexibility to skip weeks and only receive deliveries when you're in the mood to play chef.

After two weeks of deliveries, we've cooked dishes I never throught could come out of my kitchen: beef pho, braised massaman chicken, tilapia piccata with orzo, beef and butternut squash tagine, and chicken with miso soba. As I dug into my plate of fish with chermoula on a bed of wilted spinach, roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted oranges, I was filled with incredulous wonder that I had actually put together all these new flavors that were absolutely not part of my culinary subconscious. J, a true blue Dutch man, was equally stunned after cooking up bowls of delicious beef pho, and said, "Did I actually make that?"

For those looking to improve their Winter hibernation experience, I highly recommend trying this out! To sign up for Plated, click here

January 11, 2015

CHAMPORADO BRUNCHES AND LECHON DINNERS AT PIG AND KHAO

One of the greatest things about living in New York is that Filipino cuisine has become one of the hippest in the city. When I packed up my bags and moved here eight years ago, I couldn't have imagined that my Sex and the City-esque brunch choices would ever include champorado and sizzling sisig—with bottomless mimosas to boot! Yes, today I'm living the Pinay in America dream where I can have corned beef and garlic rice for brunch without having to be all defensive about it, thanks to Pig and Khao. The restaurant is helmed by Top Chef alum, Leah Cohen, who also happens to be half Filipina. Her menu takes inspiration from her travels through Southeast Asia, so I've now also developed an addiction to the spicy curry flavors of their Khao Soi noodle soup on top of my dependence on their crispy-bacon-champorado combo.


But wait! That's not all. Pig and Khao now also does ... *drumroll* ... suckling pig dinners! Thanks to my friend Julie, I found out that for $45 per person for a 6-10 person group, Pig and Khao will cook up a whole piggie for you and your buddies, with vegetable sides, unlimited rice (coconut and jasmine), plus a liver sauce that comes nice and close to that Pinoy favorite, Mang Tomas. Our little piggie was utter perfection: the skin was nice and crunchy while the meat was tender and packed with flavor. If you like pork and breaking pork skin with friends, I highly recommend hitting up Pig & Khao.


Pig and Khao is located at 68 Clinton Street, New York, NY. If you are looking to partake of lechon, make sure you call (212) 920-4485 at least a week in advance and be ready to put down a deposit.
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