The Great Googa Mooga

When I found out that there was going to be a festival dedicated to the consumption of gourmet grub, craft booze, and fine tunes in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. And when the day finally came last Sunday, I did find myself in a food, music and sunshine-filled nirvana ...
The very first Great Googa Mooga took over Nethermeads last weekend, with roughly 75 of the city's culinary heavyweights dishing out their food porn best. The best illustration of the level of food fetishism that went on: M Wells's grilled cheese sandwich piled with horsemeat bologna and foie gras. That sandwich was so delectably rich, it gave me the shivers.

I had my reservations about the festival due to feedback from Saturday's attendees who made it sound like a cross between Coachella and the Hunger Games. But we beat the crowd by arriving before noon and had our pick of the food stalls, as well as prime real estate by the main stage where we parked my obnoxiously bright pink picnic blanket (this came in handy when cellphone reception peaced out with the thickening of the crowd).

The only hitch: my appetite tapped out after that monster of a grilled cheese sandwich. For the rest of the day, my consumption was limited to a fabulous bag of bourbon and bacon popcorn, those epic sweet and spicy wings by Kasadela, and multiple glasses of beer.

Gluttony-fail notwithstanding, it was still a great, great day. The weather was perfect for laying out on the grass and grooving to some Hall and Oates, sipping beer, and partaking of gourmet goodness. The only thing that could have made that day better was if I had multiple stomachs to fill. Too much delicious food, so very little time and stomach space.

With a bit more practice, I'm sure you can be really great, Googa Mooga. So come back and practice again with me next year, won't you?

Brooklyn Half Marathon—Check!

It was crazy and maybe a little stupid, but I did it. I finished the Brooklyn Half Marathon.
After crossing the 2010 New York City Marathon finish line, I turned into a massive slacker of a runner. So massive that I traded in my spot at the 2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon for the pleasure of slugging a mezcal-soaked worm on the eve of my 30th birthday. So massive that I ran no races and so few miles, in fact, that I used the same running shoes I ran the marathon in until March of this year.

In the hope of pulling myself out of the rut, I signed up for the 2012 Brooklyn Half Marathon. It was my last unconquered outer borough, after all, so it had to be done. The thought of a looming race did get me back to running—though not as frequently as training for a half marathon requires. With my time and attention taken up by moving and getting settled in, my training plan was left unfollowed. So when the day came to toe the line, I was quaking in my running shoes.

But somehow, I did pull through. The odds were in my favor: we were blessed with perfect weather and a lovely (and fast) course that started at the Brooklyn Museum, wound through Prospect Park, soldiered on down Ocean Parkway, and culminated on the Coney Island boardwalk.
The run was equal parts punishing and amazing. I really enjoyed the earlier part of the race: the constantly changing scenery was lovely, the hills and turns gave the run variety, and the crowd support ranged from a cheerleading squad to a lady who had me laughing with a sign that read, "Run like you stole something!" And of course, it's just nice running on a full tank of gas.

The five miler down Ocean Parkway was when my demons started to appear. Running down a completely straight road, there wasn't much to distract me from the fact that I was pretty damn exhausted. I refueled with Gatorade at every stop to get a sugar kick and splashed water on my face, neck and head to hit the reset button on my rising body temperature. But still, at about mile 10, I started to doubt that I could make it. I was so tired and undertrained, and my body made sure I knew it.

But what I've noticed from my little running experience is that distance running entails both training and a stubborn disposition. If you're someone who simply refuses to quit, you will make it past that finish line eventually. Thankfully, I have great reserves of obstinacy, so I tapped in and talked myself into putting one foot after another until I finally crossed the finish line. Surprisingly, I didn't just survive. I actually made decent time—well within the neighborhood of my previous half marathon times.

That said, I don't plan on tempting fate again. I was lucky to make it to the end without getting injured or altogether fainting, and I recognize that this was a free pass from the running gods. But it was good to get out there again and be reminded of how much I enjoy it all: setting a crazy goal, going for it, and actually achieving it against all odds—it never loses its sweet taste.

La Vie de Bohème

"I'm a girl from a good family who was very well brought up.
One day I turned my back on it all and became a bohemian."
- Brigitte Bardot   

Sometime in the 19th century, the word Bohemian changed in meaning from a group of people with roots in the Kingdom of Bohemia to another that's cut off conventional ties and chosen to lead the free, pleasure-seeking life of a wandering bon vivant. It is in the latter sense of the word that one feels immersed in while dining in the clandestine restaurant Bohemian in New York.
Bohemian is the brainchild of Play Earth, a company with a mission to create "hideouts in those favorite places we stumble upon while freely traveling the world." So far, Play Earth has a secret resort in Bali, Indonesia, as well as hidden spots in Nishiazabu, Japan and here in New York. The New York hideout is situated in a location with bohemian pedigree—the property was once the home and atelier of graffiti-artist turned painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and before that it was owned by Andy Warhol, the man who helped propel Basquiat to fame.

These days, the space is a wellspring of good food and drinks—that is, if you can get in. One part of Bohemian's appeal is its exclusivity: a party can only be seated with a reservation, and the address and phone number are not listed. If you can get it from someone who's dined there before, then lucky you. You're in for a treat.

You know you're in a spot that's not messing around when your scotch arrives looking like this:

While the drinks in this place deserve high marks, it's the food that's the star of the show. Our opening salvo made us sit up and take notice. The uni croquette is a breadcrumb-encrusted flavor bomb, filled with wild mushroom and topped with a piece of fresh, buttery sea urchin.

The black cod was perfectly moist, flaky, and saturated in umami miso flavor. That it comes with a side of uni-spiked gratin doesn't hurt either.

My favorite plate was impressive in its simplicity: short rib sashimi, which was lightly marbled, fresh, and succulent. Bohemian shares space with Japan Premium Beef, which is the exclusive supplier of Washugyu beef, so order as much of the top notch meat as your wallet can handle. 

I went to Bohemian with a group of friends, which was nice because we got try a variety of things. Had I only ordered the mac n cheese and oysters, I would've felt disappointed as neither was exceptional. But as two among many dishes, they were some pretty good nibbles.

In keeping with the eat-as-much-meat-as-humanly-possible gameplan, we ordered tri-tip steak, which arrived at our table a perfectly rosy medium rare. I love how the steak was presented without much fanfare; it's unnecessary when the meat is this good.

The branzino, flown in from Greece daily, did not need much embellishment either. It was simply grilled and served with anchovy filets, kalamata olives, cipollini onions, rosemary stalks, roasted garlic, and fingerling potatoes. Delicious.

And finally, the coup de grace: seared foie gras on firm and perfectly chewy cold soba. Truthfully, we bit off more than we could chew by ordering 4 servings for a group of 6. That bowl of pure hedonism was perfection—but after a meal as decadent as what we had, the spirit may have been willing but the body was waving the white flag.

If turning bohemian equates to a devotion to pleasures as sweet as this meal, then I'm so sorry Mom and Dad. I may well follow Miss Bardot's footsteps.

Storm King

Sometimes, all you need to regain your footing is to get away from it all, take a step back, and see the bigger picture.

Sol LeWitt, Five Modular Units 

I love New York City with a passion but sometimes, the whirlwind of activities, frenetic energy, and unnecessarily complicated people it fosters can be too much. By the end of last week, I just needed to get away from it all. Mercifully, some friends had a plan to escape reality for an afternoon. So on the most gorgeous spring day of 2012 yet, we piled into a van and drove up to Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York. It's an easy one hour and 15 minute drive from the city and worth every second on the road.

Storm King is an open air museum spanning 500 acres and displaying over 100 works of art—mostly large-scale sculptures set against a backdrop of sprawling green fields and bright cerulean skies. The fee is $12 ($8 for students) to enter this triptastic world.

Menashe Kadishman, Suspended, 1977

Alexander Calder, The Arch, 1975 

The sculptures are thoughtfully placed throughout the grounds so that the art interacts with its setting.

From left: a sculpture by Mark di Suvero; Roy Lichtenstein's Mermaid

Though truth be told, the park itself is so beautiful that at times nature outdoes the art.

What I appreciated best were the pieces with a more organic quality that seemed to meld seamlessly with nature. In particular, I loved these cedar and bronze sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard. The undulating stacks of hand-hewn cedar have a primitive and yet intricate character to them, and they seemed to interact the most naturally with their surroundings.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, For Paul

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Luba

The theme of Storm King's 2012 exhibition is Light and Landscape, and features art that utilizes these two facets of nature that are in abundance in this space. One of my favorite pieces was a solarium fitted with colored glass by Brooklyn-based artist William Lamson. It seems like something out of a dream, standing silent and solitary on a verdant rolling hill. Entering it feels like walking into a kaleidoscope, bathing you in dappled colors and quite literally allowing you to see your surroundings in a different light.

William Lamson, Solarium

Another favorite of mine was this piece by Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, which draws you in with its shiny, polished surface and then surprises you by presenting you with a view of your world turned upside down.

Anish Kapoor, Untitled

By the end of the day, my soul felt revived with all the beauty seen and experienced, and my head cleared of the minutiae of daily life it had been so fixated on. Being so focused on the day-to-day can make us ruinously self-absorbed, and it's good to be reminded that there are so many wonderful things outside of ourselves just waiting to be discovered. So go on, get out of your head, and come out and play!

A Taste of Home at DeKalb Market

I can't remember the last time I felt homesick.

When I moved to New York six years ago, a happy confluence of circumstances made the supposedly Big Bad Apple feel just like home very quickly. Not long after I left the Philippines, my family migrated to the West Coast, so their house in Seattle felt more like home than the empty structure that was left behind in Makati. New York also happened to be filled with people I grew up with—so there was no shortage of folks who shared my silly Pinoy humor (the pusit-opposite joke doesn't translate), understood that an Ateneo-La Salle basketball final was an event of national concern, and agreed that spam, egg, and garlic rice is a legitimate (and delicious) meal.

That I could not only find people who understood my taste in food but also a profusion of places from which to procure the aforementioned food made the transition from Manileño to Nueva Yorkino much easier. I've lived in a place where the only way to get Filipino food is to cook it yourself (looking at you, Stuttgart, with your groceries that are not only devoid of fish sauce but also promptly shuttered at a very hangover-inconsiderate 3pm on a Saturday). But here in my new home in Brooklyn, weekend hangovers can easily be remedied with a stroll to Dekalb Market, where Filipino food phenom Maharlika provides the perfect antidote to last night's sins: juicy, flavorful beef tapa and garlic rice—with plenty of spicy, garlicky vinegar to boot!

They even have a fabulous longganiza on a bun, which gives me cause to swoon. Charred on a grill and topped with bagoong-spiked mayo and pickled carrots, it brings back memories of drunken stumbles through Boracay's white sands with longga burger in hand—but it also holds its own as a fusion dog to rival all the fancy mongrels the city has to offer.

It's easy to while away a day at Dekalb Market, with its quirky shops, profusion of good food and cheap booze, and sun-soaked picnic tables.

Dekalb Market could well be my home away from home all summer ... as long as the tapa and longganiza keeps coming!

Dekalb Market is located at 138 Willoughby Street (at Flatbush Ave) in Downtown Brooklyn, New York.

I can live with this.

"How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants,
rather than to create it herself." 
- Anais Nin

Personally, I find nothing wrong with a man and woman building a world together; if you have that, you are very lucky and I am sincerely happy for you. But for someone like me who isn't quite at that stage, there's no reason to sit around waiting for a man to give me the life that I want. With some supportive friends, a few trusty tools, and a lot of cold beer, a girl can build her own little piece of heaven—and enjoy it, too!

The day after I got the keys to my kingdom, I undertook a project that still has the unusual ability to make me simultaneously shudder and glow with pride to think of: painting the apartment.
While I thankfully had help for the more tedious parts like taping up the molding and laying out drop cloths, every inch of those walls was covered in two coats of Benjamin Moore Classic Gray with pure Celine muscle power. The exhaustion penetrated deep into my bones, but the feeling of accomplishment I got after I pulled off the blue tape and saw my home transformed made all the effort totally worth it. Nothing says "new beginnings" like a fresh coat of paint.
After the paint job, it was time to build. For what felt like an eternity, my days looked like this:
Turning boxes of planks and screws into furniture was difficult but incredibly gratifying. You know how some parents love to show pictures of their kids, whether you ask to see them or not? Well, I've been like that with the furniture I built. After hours of battling with screws, puzzling over assembly instructions, and lugging around furniture that weighs almost as much as I do, you'd better believe I'd like to show off my handiwork. So without further ado, here are my "children" ...
My hands and forearms hated me for what I put them through making that fabric-covered pinboard and putting together those Ikea Helmer drawer units, but the lovely splash of color and extra storage made the pain worthwhile.
I'm especially proud of my Ikea Norden table, which required some heavy lifting and loud hammering to build, but was totally worth the hard work. My baby does such cool tricks!
It's not easy building a world on my own. But it is supremely satisfying to look around, see that everything is just the way I want it to be, and think, "Yes, I can definitely live with this."