Ibiza, take me back ...

When New York's Polar Vortexes start bringing down my spirits, I escape to Ibiza in my mind.

The Ibiza I experienced last summer felt in some ways like an entirely different island from the one I visited in 2010, when I was on a mission to party like it was going out of style. While long clubbing nights were not entirely absent from this trip's itinerary, there were also intimate dinners and conversations in candlelit hideaways. We soaked up the sun in scene-y spots like Cala Bassa but also in deserted coves and stretches of sandy beach in Las Salinas. I even got to work out my gams, not just by running around in heels, but also taking a hike to enjoy some sublime vistas.

We got to enjoy Ibiza's many lively tastes. We developed an obsession with the unctuous jamón Iberico, played a few rounds of hot pepper roulette with pimentos de Padrón, and feasted on those delightful, tiny fried squid called chipirones—all with Ibiza's aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches just steps away.
It was such a wonderful surprise to discover this laid-back, languid side of Ibiza. I can't help but wonder ... what other delights will I find in the magic island the next time I return?   

It Takes a Village: NYers for the Philippines

Last November, Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, obliterating entire cities and villages, and devastating thousands. At our country's time of need, the world responded generously to fund relief efforts—and for that, the Filipino people will always be grateful. But it takes a global village to rebuild, in whatever measure possible, the homes, communities and cities that were devastated in one fell swoop. Recognizing this challenge, a truly amazing group of New Yorkers banded together to put together a fundraising event with the goal of building a village in Iloilo through Gawad Kalinga for those devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. This is an event that brings together some major players in the industry from a multitude of cultures—all of them NYers for the Philippines.

The big event will take place on January 27, 2014 at Bagatelle, featuring cuisine from Paul Liebrandt of The Elm; Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa of Purple Yam, Philippe Bertineau of Benoit NY - A Bistro by Alain Ducasse; George Mendes of Aldea; Laurent Kalkotour of Atrium; Michael White, Amador Acosta and Marianne Bondad of the Altamarea Group; Andrew Carmellini and Jason Hua of The Dutch; Sebastien Chamaret of Bagatelle New York; and Chris Killoran of Stinky Bklyn. Also chipping in are pastry chefs Sam Mason, Johnny Iuzzini and Mario Bacherini, and mixologists Joaquin Simo of Pouring Ribbons, Jillian Vose of Death & Co., and Thor Berguist of Experimental Cocktail Club. And because it just isn't a night at Bagatelle without dancing with your dinner, all this comes with a side of getting down with music provided by DJs Stan Courtois, Benjamin Dumazot and Jason Jinx, and hip hop violinist Damien Escobar.

To whet your appetite, here's a little sampling of the extraordinary fare to be served on this night: Purple Yam's noritaco—nori sheets formed into the shape of tacos and filled with heirloom rice from the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, beef short ribs cooked in the classic Filipino adobo style, and a salad of pomelo, jicama and guava.


To purchase tickets, try your luck at their raffle, or to simply make a donation for the rebuilding efforts, click here.


Copenhagen Cravings

As a hopeless food fanatic, coming to Copenhagen was a joy but also a bit of sweet torture. If you're food-obsessed like I am and nurture a dream of coming to the city of Noma to gorge on inventive, foraged goodness, take this lesson from me: Make your reservations before buying the plane ticket. By the time I decided to add Copenhagen to last summer's Europe hit list, Noma and the restaurants nipping at its heels were booked solid. I had to bid my fevered foraged food dreams, "Farvel."

I consider this failure only slightly heartbreaking because, it turns out, there's more than enough good stuff to go around in Copenhagen. From the eye candy that is Nyhavn at sunset (as seen above) to the plethora of yummy underneath Torvehallerne's roof (as seen below), Copenhagen can keep many of your appetites sated.

I all but pitched a tent and lived at Torvehallerne during my visit. Torvehallerne is an upscale covered market in the midst of the Danish capital, which offers all manner of things delicious: organic produce, fresh fish and butchered meats; smørrebrød and pintxos; shops specializing in everything from olive oil to fudge to licorice ... I could go on and on. And all of it done in tasteful, modern Danish style, to boot.
I took every opportunity to feast at Hallernes Smørrebrød, a stall specializing in the traditional Danish open-faced sandwich. For my intro to Danish cuisine, I had a beautiful pickled herring and egg smørrebrød to sample that culinary holdover from the Viking era. The Scandinavian love for herring has long tickled me pink since we tropical creatures several temperature degrees and time zones over share the passion for herring (a.k.a. tuyo to Filipinos). Our version is dried, fried and dipped in spicy vinegar then eaten with a generous heap of garlic fried rice and a fried egg (Did I mention it all has to be fried?). While I very much enjoyed the Danish preparation, I'm Asian and rice is rice my friends ... I also had to try a smørrebrød topped with bacon as our Danish friend assured me their bacon is quite stellar. My bacon smørrebrød was indeed delicious ... then again, I've never encountered a piece of bacon I didn't love!
Every day I spent in Copenhagen was marked by at least one cappuccino at Coffee Collective, also conveniently located at Torvehallerne. The modern minimalist bar serves them potent and pretty much perfect. I also felt quite at home there as my go-to coffee spot near work in New York, Pennylane, is supposedly inspired by this joint.
As a sister and cousin to avowed Paleomaniacs, I also felt it was my duty to have a meal at Paleo, which is completely inspired by and truthful to the Paleo (a.k.a. caveman) diet. While the meal lacked the heart palpitations I've grown accustomed to, I did enjoy the salmon wrap, which was encased in an omelette and tucked with rocket, tomatoes and avocado, and the red grape, red pepper and ginger juice. What's for dessert you ask? Kettlebell swings, naturally.
In between meals, I caught up with friends living in and visiting Copenhagen—and even got in quite a bit of sight-seeing. A quick way of getting to know the city is to hop on a boat tour at Nyhavn. It's a great vantage point for seeing the city's lovely architecture, which ranges from Gothic to that distinctive Scandinavian modern. As a nice little bonus, we also got to see the royal yacht, which was an impressive sight, indeed.
I even spent a morning wandering through Freetown Christiania, a commune established in 1971 and still going strong. It's best known for Pusher Street, which peddles an impressive array of hashish (take pictures at your own risk). Where Christiania was once an enclave of hippies and artists, the populace seemed to me (and to this Vanity Fair writer) more of the motorbike gang variety. Still, it was quite a sight and a definite must-see when in Copenhagen.
If you're feeling rebellious, you could partake of Freetown Christiania's wares. And when the inevitable munchies hit, let's just say I have a few ideas on where you could go with that appetite ...

The Happiest Holidays

After months of seemingly endless work and sleep deprivation, taking a few weeks off to spend the holidays with those whom I love the most was a wonderful gift. I got to spend quality time with my family in Washington State, throw a little New Year's Eve fete for my friends, and enjoy the loveliest of dates in the midst of a crazy New York winter. It was the perfect pause between an extremely eventful 2013 and a 2014 brimming with challenge and promise.

So much happened in 2013 that it's almost inconceivable that it was just one year—from fabulous travels through Asia and Europe to life twists and turns that may yet propel me in unforeseen directions. In many ways, 2013 took me completely by surprise, leaving me in a difficult but amazing place I had not pictured in any way when the year began. But the year that was makes me absolutely hopeful for the year to come. 2013 showed me that life can still surprise us in the most unexpected and wonderful ways, and it gives me a thrill to think about what 2014 could possibly bring.

I hope the new year has treated you all well so far, and I sincerely hope 2014 brings you a delightful dose of the unexpected!