Contemplating life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn- overlooking the Manhattan skyline. (Photo by Jorsand Diaz)
Happy new year everyone!!! I hope you had a fun, restful and enjoyable holiday season- and let’s get ready to kick some ass this 2018! But first up before that, I want to share with you
my (annual) Favorite Travel Moments of the year that was– 2017. (In case you were interested, here were my ones from and 2014, 2015 ) You know, it’s one of the hardest blog posts I do every year but I do it anyway because it gives me the chance to really 2016! look back and reflect (come December, we often forget some of the amazing things we were doing in January, February, March!), inhale how truly beautiful life is— and possibly see how far we’ve come since the start of the year.
Travel is an integral part of my life— we get to understand ourselves best when we are in the unfamiliar (you’re not in your usual environment and you can’t automatically predict what happens next), and at the same time, we are more accepting of meeting other people and allowing them to effect us, and we learn more about the world this way. I’m very grateful to have traveled to 11 countries and 28 cities this year, that began with winter in Spain and culminated with a white Christmas in the East Coast of the United States of America.
I urge you to do the same when you can. After all, in order to move forward, we must look back. It gives us perspective, knowledge and the push to keep soldiering on– and also gratitude for all we’ve through. xx
PS Go, travel– see the world this 2018! It’s the only thing that you spend on that will make you richer
SPAIN (Madrid)| January 2017
Back in Madrid for the third year in a row for Madrid Fusion 2017
El Celler Can Roca has always been a family affair. At Madrid Fusion this year, it was nice to catch up with Joan Roca and his family, his lovely wife Anna and son Marco.
I can’t even remember the last time I was in a club CLUB. But spent my last night in Madrid at the 3-month-old Blackhaus, just outside of the city with my jetsetter friend Luis Medina Abascal. The club is owned by Marc Anthony (J.Lo’s ex-husband) and Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos– and I’m happy to have discovered a strawberry-flavored gin from Seville that was made into a proper gin tonic tableside!
SPAIN (Barcelona)| January-February 2017
Parc Guell is one of my favorite parks in the world and my favorite by Antoni Gaudi. It will always represent Barcelona to me <3
In this ever-changing world (where we have a long list of goals & dreams, where it’s become difficult to describe what we do in 1 word– or even 1 sentence– it’s so wonderful to be in the company of like-minded individuals in a similar place on another side of the world– a friend, supporter and believer. 💝🙏💝 Thank you dear Claudia Sofia Von for your beautiful heart, and for making a home in Barcelona for me. (PS Notice those gold Chinese lucky cats in the background!)
The best cheesecake in the world!!! (At Tickets Bar, Barcelona)
THAILAND (Bangkok)| February 2017
3 years in a row!!!! 🏆🏆🏆 Congratulations to our dear Gaggan and team for being the #1 restaurant in Asia for 2017 once again, and to Chele and Gallery Vask for being the best restaurant in the Philippines, jumping up to #35!!! *A little trivia, Cross Cultures by Cheryl Tiu was only 1 MONTH old when I collaborated with these two, and they have been the *HUGEST* supporters of my events platform, and have been promoting it to everyone since.
An awesome collaboration between Gaggan (Thailand) and Den (Japan) = Gaggan x Den Fried Chicken!!! What’s inside?! the signature DENtucky fried chicken (DFC).. so I guess since I got Gaggan’s face, this is the GagganFried Chicken (GFC), but this time stuffed with Thai sticky rice, Thai curry and Thai chili. So cool and so fun! Plus, I have a new friend– Piyo-chan!
With my fellow World’s 50 Best Restaurants Tastemakers (now, Tastehunters for 2018)- Litti Kewkacha from Thailand; Zoe Bowker from Dubai; Amelie Vincent from Belgium; and Perm Paitayawat from the UK
SINGAPORE | March, July and November 2017
It was so awesome showcasing our Philippine lechon by Pepita’s Kitchen to Singapore with my events platform Cross Cultures by Cheryl Tiu and our partner The Horse’s Mouth!💕 In photo with me are the amazing Russell Yu and the lechon diva Dedet dela Fuente PS my beaded scarf is by Tribe Dreamweavers in Lake Seibu, Mindanao– an underrepresented but culturally abundant region in the Philippines. Gorgeous, right?! 💙 (Photo credits: T Dining Singapore) (November 2017)
Thank you Speciality & Fine Food Asia for having me at your 1st gourmet trade fair in the region! Happy to have been reunited with chef Ray Adriansyah of Restaurant Locavore in Bali, Indonesia who is an advocate of championing local (he also cooked with us at Cross Cultures by Cheryl Tiu in Manila last April🙌) who is the headliner of the UK-based event! (July 2017)
The then-recently opened Warehouse Hotel was my home for 2 weeks while I was working a consulting gig in the Lion City (March 2017)
GEORGIA (Tbilisi, Kakheti, Kazbegi) | May 2017
So freaking grateful to be in this incredible country…with the stunning Caucasus Mountains as a backdrop. <3
Just look at how absolutely stunning the capital city of Tbilisi is!
Having been able to experience Georgian wine in one of the oldest wine countries in the world! (They still make it qvevri-style, which is what they used to do 8,000 years ago!
ARMENIA (Debed Canyon)| May 2017
I was curious about Armenia so decided to do a day trip to visit some of the things they are most known for (apart from Cher the singer, Andre Agassi and the Kardashians!)– their medieval monasteries. This is Haghpat monastery, a UNESCO Heritage site, built in the year 966 (notice the Armenian crosses behind us, too).
Sanahin, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site, is the most popular stop for visitors to the Debed Canyon. Back in the day, it was known for its school of illuminators and calligraphers, and it was also a medical school.
SPAIN (Bilbao) | May 2017
A huge honor for me to have been invited for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao’s 20th anniversary! The stunning museum designed by Frank Gehry is home to Michelin-starred Nerua.
So happy to have been part of the Four Hands dinner between Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona Spain, and Josean Alija of Nerua at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao! (L-R): Joan Roca, Stefania Giordano (Josean’s wife and also Nerua’s maitre), me and Josean Alija
A Basque breakfast of txakoli-tasting in the middle of a vineyard (as in no bathroom within the vicinity). Bodegas Itsasmendi is a boutique biodynamic winery highly respected for their txakolis- they do a red one, too, quite rare. Such a precious experience 💕💕
SPAIN (San Sebastian) | May 2017
I cannot even express how touched I am at how the Mugaritz team took care of me and made sure my first time in San Sebastian was so special. With dearest Andoni Aduriz (right) and Jose Ramon (left). Love these guys like family!!!
How precious to have Elena Arzak show me around San Sebastian?! Here we are at the Old Town. One of the sweetest and humblest chefs I know <3
USA (San Francisco) | August 2017
Hello, San Francisco!!! Ok fine, I’m at Sausalito, specifically
I really loved my dining experience at Atelier Crenn and especially how Dominique Crenn writes her menu in the form of poetry
USA (Las Vegas) | August 2017
When you haven’t seen your best friend Eva Wong-Bernardino in 5 years.. You fly Vegas to visit her.❤️❤️❤️ Vegas isn’t really my kind of city but there’s an insane amount of celebrity chef restaurants there and I like checking them out while there. We really loved Jaleo by Jose Andres at The Cosmopolitan Hotel.
Finally got to try Alvin Cailan’s Eggslut… in Vegas! I walked to The Cosmopolitan from Aria Sky Suites, lined up at Eggslut for half an hour (line was insane!!!) and took it back to my room for breakfast. 🍳🍳🍳 And it was worth the wait! This is the Fairfax (with additional turkey sausage).
BELGIUM (Bruges) | August 2017
A Flemish-Japanese collaboration lunch and dinner between host Hertog Jan’s Gert de Mangeleer and sous chef Jef Poppe, with with visting Tokyo-based chefs Zaiyu Hasegawa (Den) and Hiroyasu Kawate (Florilege), and Osaka-based Yusuke Takada (La Cime)
Bruges’ most photographed landmark, Rozenhoedkaai!
Dominique Persoone makes chocolates for Albert Adria, Alex Atala, Rene Redzepi, Gert de Mangeleer, Heston Blumenthal, and The Rolling Stones, under his The Chocolate Line. 🍫🍫🍫He’s creative, innovative and provocative… and makes the BEST choco-mallows in the world.
BELGIUM (Brussels) | August 2017
Brussels will remain fondly in my memory solely because of these two: my Lifestyle Asia editor and mentor dearest Tita Anna Sobrepena and daughter Mica <3
A slice of Africa in Brussels– the Matonge neighborhood was established by the city’s Congolese immigrants, and named after a district in Congo’s capital Kinshasa. Au Soleil d’Afrique serves Western African fare like chicken mafe wings with peanut sauce– and free rice!
Brussels’ Grand Place or Grote Markt is quite a sight to behold at night
NETHERLANDS (Amsterdam) | August 2017
Home in Amsterdam was at the W Hotel 💞, which is actually set in 2 buildings– a former 1920s telephone exchange building (where I stayed), and 1906 former bank across the street. As with any W property, it’s fun, hip, modern, colorful and edgy, with glass walls that bring in natural light and make it difficult to leave the room.
I’m not particularly a museum person but I HAD to go to Rijksmuseum! Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” was one of my favorites, notice the play of dark and light.. and also spot him hiding!
Some of the best mussels and fries I’ve had– and for sure, the best in Amsterdam!– at Cafe George
GERMANY (Berlin/ Wolfsburg) | August 2017
Said hello to Berlin for the 1st time thanks to Miele and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. 💜💙💚 Miele just launched a first– a phenomenal, very intelligent product that changes the way we cook our food.
A champagne kitchen tour by chef Sven Elverfeld was the prelude to a most sublime dinner at AQUA (3 Michelin stars; 70th best restaurant in the world) with the World’s 50 Best family: Emer Schlosser, Crystyl Mo, Mason Florence, yours truly and Zoe Bowker
As soon as this dish was presented to me at Aqua (located at the Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg), I was like “What is this sorcery?!” Ruinart rose is one of my favorite champagnes, and Sven Elverfeld has transformed it into the creamiest sorbet in the world (it’s so freaking good, aaaah!!!😍😍😍) served in.. the base of the Ruinart champagne bottle!😎😎😎 It’s become Aqua’s signature dish since then and with excellent reason!
SLOVENIA (Soca Valley, Lake Bled, Ljubljana)| September 2017
Picture-perfect gorgeous Lake Bled in Slovenia <3
It was such an honor to have the World’s Best Female Chef 2017 Ana Ros cook (traditional Slovenian food) for us at her husband Valter’s private wine cellar in their restaurant Hisa Franko!! And with these awesome girls Zoe Bowker and Agnes Chee!
Who drinks wine in the middle of a river… forest??!! 😱🍷 I first saw the stunning, emerald green Soča River on Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” and it was beyond incredible being there in real life! 💖💖💖Hisa Franko sommelier Alen Audic so kindly gave me a tour, leading up to the amazing Kozjak waterfalls– and in true sommelier fashion, not without a bottle of Slovenian wine!👌🤗 For sure one of the coolest places I’ve ever had wine– it was priceless maneuvering around the boulders, glass of wine on hand, trying not to fall and die!
HONG KONG | November 2017
It was an honor to have been flown in to Hong Kong for Hong Kong Tatler’s T Dining 2017 Best Restaurants Awards! With editorial director the super Charmaine Mok and Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016, our very own Margarita Fores!
Seriously one of the FUNNEST nights I’d had in a long time! Our unofficial T Dining Restaurants Awards after party at La Cabane in Soho with amazing peeps and winners like Max Levy and Daniel Cheung of Okra; Daniel Calvert of Belon; and JJ Acuna who designed Tate Dining Room– and of course, me and Margarita Fores from the Philippines!
A birthday surprise from one of Hong Kong’s hottest new restaurant openings for 2017, HAKU 💞 Thank you so much, chef Agustin Balbi!
USA (New York City) | November-December 2017
Soooo happy to be back in my favorite city in the world!! (Photo by Sweet Escape– you can book them to take your travel photos most anywhere in the world; just download their app!)
L’Express, a proper restaurant that serves *good* food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week- has a special place in my heart! Calamari and escargot at 2:30 in the morning?Hellz yeah!
It was a beautiful 3-day wedding affair 👰🏻💍🤵🏻 celebrating our dear Carissa Chan and Paolo Onate’s happily ever after in New York City!❤️❤️❤️ Day 1: Church wedding at St. Ignatius | Day 2: Wedding reception at Daniel (where this photo was taken)| Day 3: Wedding after party at Momofuku Ssam. We couldn’t be happier to celebrate this incredible love story! *(L-R) Rhea Austria, Carissa Chan-Onate, Joni Lim-Ricard, Cheryl Tiu, Ella Chua-Tigas and Happy David
The peeps who always take care of me in NYC– last year and this year! The newly engaged couple aka my NYC parents Rohit Gandhi and Jean Fernado, and my Latin sis and bro Talia Jimenez and Jorsand Diaz. Love you guys loads!!
Happy Thanksgiving!!!❤️❤️❤️ It was so nice to have been invited to join the COSME & ATLA family thanksgiving meal (at 3PM before they opened for dinner service) where everyone regards each other (including me!) like family. 💝💝💝 We don’t really celebrate it back home and I’ve only ever been to one thanksgiving dinner in my life so it was such beautiful experience for me. 🙏The best thing about being a Mexican restaurant is… we had turkey with 3 kinds of MOLE sauce from Oaxaca, and of course tamales! (Photo by Jorsand Diaz)
I spent a few days exploring Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which has been dubbed “the new Williamsburg”– thanks to shows like “Master of None” and “Girls” on Netflix. My favorite discovery was Eagle Trading Co.– which serves good coffee, but the most *incredible* meatball sandwiches smothered in mozarella (I mean just look at that!!!) in that perfect crisp, toasty bread.
The first day of snow in New York City!!! December 9, 2017
USA (New Orleans) | November 2017
So gorgeous, right?! So nice to meet you, New Orleans!!!
Effing freakin’ AMAZING sizzling chargrilled oysters at Acme, topped with herbed butter and cheese. 😍😍😍😍😍😍Effff. So. Freaking goooood. Worth. Every. Carb. 😋😋😋❤️❤️❤️❤️👍👍
Did you know the sazerac was invented in New Orleans? Hence, imperative to have a sazerac at the Sazerac Bar where the sazerac was invented
USA (Miami) | December 2017
The Miami Beach sunset rose situation 😍
Havana, ooh-na-na. (At Little Havana)
Getting to experience Miami with this awesome human being, who happens to be true blue local! This is at Kyo, one of the hottest restaurants in the city
USA (Key West) | December 2017
Absolutely in love with The Gardens Hotel (we got a cottage!) in Key West! It’s boutique, charming, part of the Small Luxury Hotels in the World.. notice the beautiful architecture, too, which is prevalent in Key West (diff from the rest of Florida Keys)
Little Pearl is a wonderful wine bar-restaurant (great food!) that recently opened, and we wanted to give a shoutout to our super kind and helpful server from Poughkeepsie. Loved the conch and crab cakes (so good!) and of course, the key lime pie (when in Key West, you just must!)
One of the greatest things about South Florida is its proximity to the Caribbean.. hence amaaaazing “Carribean-Latino” fare, like this Caribbean pork roast — slow-cooked pork shoulder on lightly toasted baguette😍😍😍– and mahi-mahi in spicy red sauce over jasmine rice– at Bien, a self-service restaurant (there are only 3 tables!) at a former gasoline station. It’s popular with locals as well, and as take-out.
USA (Boston) | December 2017
My first time in Boston! Too bad it was super duper cold and windy!
Barrington coffee (and this awesome vegan scone!) kept us warm and happy in our wintery escapade in Boston
When in Boston, Saltie Girl is a MUST. 😍 Excellent food, excellent drinks– enough said.
USA (Burlington) | December 2017
One of my biggest accomplishments is driving this massive truck– a Chevy suburban– around the East Coast during this winter wonderland!
I spent Christmas this year in Burlington, Vermont- and went to the Co-Cathedral of Saint Joseph twice– for Christmas Eve, and then again on Christmas morning– which had one of the most beautiful homilies ever <3
USA (Upstate New York: Saratoga & Albany) | December 2017
I spent Christmas day in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, and luckily, one restaurant was open, Morton’s Steakhouse at the Saratoga Casino Hotel… so yes, got my Christmas dinner after all, yay!