Contemplating the year that was 2016 on top of the Galata Tower overlooking beautiful Istanbul, my last trip for the year.
I was in the subway in New York City just last November feeling sorry for myself over several wishes that did not materialize. I was several stops to my destination, and as there’s no signal underground, decided to de-clutter my phone by deleting some of the 10,000++ photos that I no longer needed. Somehow, I ended up scrolling to way early up this year and was given photogenic flashbacks of places I’d traveled to, people I’d met, things I’d done this year and experiences I’d had this year– and it shook me back to reality and reminded me how lucky and blessed I am. I had forgotten about all of this because I had gotten caught up in my sorrows.
The truth is, life will always have its ups and downs but self-pity is the most useless emotion.
Life is also happening so fast that it’s important to look back (photos help us do that alot), reflect and give thanks to all the blessings in our lives. As they say, you need to look back sometimes in order to move forward. So for my annual end of the year post, I look back to one of my most favorite things in life that fuels me, inspires me and has helped shape me to become the person that I am today– TRAVEL.
I feel so lucky that this 2016 has brought me to:
Spain (Madrid), Thailand (Bangkok), Hong Kong (5x!!), Singapore (4x!!), Australia (Melbourne), Germany (Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt), Denmark (Copenhagen), USA (New York, 2x!! The second one being 1.5 months, Dallas), Mexico (Mexico City), Japan (Tokyo), Turkey (Istanbul). Wow. And it had to take a subway ride for me to reflect and remember all of that and how lucky and truly blessed I am, and I am so so grateful.
What are you grateful for? XX
SPAIN (Madrid)| January 2016
Being part of the Philippine delegation at Madrid Fusion in Spain… representing our country is always an honor.
From Andoni Aduriz (Mugaritz) to Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park) to Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca) to Josean Alija.. Madrid Fusion 2016 was a congregation of some of the best chefs in the world
DStage was my most memorable meal in Madrid. One of my favorite dishes at Diego Guerrero’s Dstage is this Nigiri of smoked winter eel sitting on white garlic puree, held together with shisho leaves. So beautiful and delicate.
Bar-hopped around the hipster Malasana neighborhood (thats basically, wine, beer and a spicy Panama liquer I just met called Thunder Bitch, and some pica-pica) with my dear friend Isabel, a fellow journalist, for El Mundo newspaper– and her really cool girlfriends!
THAILAND (Bangkok) | February 2016
Congratulations Gaggan Anand, whose eponymous Gaggan is the no. 1 restaurant in Asia for the second year in a row!! Also a massive honor for us at Cross Cultures to have collaborated in Manila in October 2015 At Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony 2016 at W Bangkok
Whoohoo, Philippines represent at the Asia’50 Best Restaurants awards 2016!! Margarita Fores as Asia’s Best Female Chef and Gallery Vask by chef Chele Gonzalez on the no. 39 spot on the list!
One of my favorite restaurant openings for 2016 is Suhring in Bangkok. It is by German twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Suhring, who serve progressive German cuisine. It’s so stunning, too, and I highly recommend it to anyone who comes and visits Bangkok.
The fastest way to get around Bangkok is through a ‘bike taxi!’ (They are a queue of motorbikes & you just tell them where you’re going as in a taxi.) Weaved in and out of the crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic from Sukhumvit Soi 11 to Sathorn in 15 minutes instead of 40. High heels, bag on my lap, sunnies.. All good!
HONG KONG | February, May, June, July, September 2016
When I’m in Hong Kong, I usually stay in Causeway Bay, and being able to inhale this view of Victoria Harbour of the Hong Kong neighborhood I spent a lot time in (this was at Seafood Room) was precious.
On Valentines Day (February 14, 2016), Carlo Calma and I went to see our Filipino kababayans in Hong Kong, who were having a dance off on their Sunday usual, Chater Road in Central. They so kindly shared their pancit and chocolate cake with us. These guys are doing so much for country while sacrificing being away from their families and loved ones. Thank you so much for the hospitality. <3
One of my biggest advocacy is promoting Filipino food to the world. And first stop with my events platform Cross Cultures… was Hong Kong!!!
We brought Filipino food to Hong Kong with my events platform, Cross Cultures!!! My first overseas event was at 42nd Davis at Kennedy Town. Dedet de la Fuente (Pepita’s Kitchen, Philippines), Jerome Santos (Rocco’s Pizzeria, Hong Kong), Roy Ocampo and Roy San Antonio (both 42nd Davis, Hong Kong) and Jimlie Catapang (Linguini Fini, Hong Kong), with Pepita’s Kitchen’s Pinoy paella
Integral to Cross Cultures’ core is also SERVICE. We are an events platform and it’s very important to us to deliver a special dining experience to all our guests.
I always wondered who were those lucky ducks that had someone waiting for them right by the plane upon landing.. And one day, I became one of them!😃😃😃 Thank you so much Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong for this wonderful surprise welcome back to Asia (after a long flight from New York)!
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong is one of my all-time favorite hotels ever. Waking up to this view is absolutely precious. In this particular case, I was jetlagging and had been up since 4AM so it was so nice to watch the progression from darkness to light. As with all things we go through in life.
Spoiled for truffles! These gorgeous black winter truffles from Perth, Australia served with Fassona (a breed of cattle from Piedmont) beef tartare at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana.
I first tried VEA when it opened in December 2015, and loved chef Vicky Cheng’s Chinese (influences) x French (techniques) philosophy. Almost a year later in Sept. 2016, I’m happy to revisit to interview Vicky.. and see that both he and VEA have come a long way– earning their first Michelin star, and likewise on the World’s 50 Best Discovery Series radar.
One of them late night shoots in Hong Kong. The 1st person I saw every morning was makeup artist Lindsay Co-Alog who was by my side most of the day until we called it a night. Lindsay is amazing– meticulous and easy to work with. She does airbrush and is great with chinita/ Chinese eyes, too! I highly recommend for shoots (TV, print), events, weddings, etc! Follow @lindsaycoalog on IG or visit www.lindsayco-alog.com.
Getting behind the bar at the Bar High Five Pop-Up at the Landmark at Mandarin Oriental with Yuriko Naganuma, protege of legendary mixologist Ueno Hidetsugu (Ueno-san), who is now the headbartender of Bar de Luxe by Bar High Five (and Attire House) on 8 Wyndham Street in Central
SINGAPORE | March, April, May, July 2016
Wow, such an HONOR for me to be part of Singapore’s largest broadcast network, MEDIACORP’s newest show, “Eat List Star” with a star-studded cast that I grew up watching on TV or reading about!! Actor-host Uttsada Panichkul (that’s VJ Utt for all of us part of the MTV generation!), Tippling Club chef Ryan Clift, radio DJ Simone Heng and hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng (Restaurant Andre, Burnt Ends, Esquina, etc.)– and me all the way from the Philippines!!!
Was so amazing working with this incredible bunch!!
Bonding with my Eat List Star co-judge Utt. I mean I grew up watching this guy on MTV (who didn’t have a crush on him?!) and to finally be working with this guy is surreal. PS How do you not age?!
With my amazing co-judges and all 20 contestants at Eat List Star for the bootcamp part of the show :)
I *LOVE* Krug and this was my first Krug dinner.. held at St. Regis Singapore! All vintages (paired with caviar, too) were amazing, most especially 1989! Thanks so much Rachel Tan Carrasco for inviting me as your date <3
I guess when you manifest, it does turn into reality. On another trip to Singapore, I had another KRUG moment with my friend chef Kirk Westaway of JAAN (a KRUG ambassade) at the restaurant overlooking Singapore.
Being to eat at almost all my favorite restaurants in Singapore, which I recommend to all of you (L-R): JAAN (Kirk Westaway), Odette (Julien Royer), Cure (Andrew Walsh), Labyrinth (Han Liguang), Corner House (Jason Tan) and Candlenut (Malcolm Lee).
At the first Michelin Gala ever in Singapore, at Resorts World Sentosa. With my gorgeous friend Rachel Tan Carrasco, brand manager of Ruinart, Dom Perignon and Krug in Singapore. Of course, did you expect anything less from us Pinays?! Haha. My train is by Puey Quinones and Rachel’s is by Andrea Tetangco, both Pinoy designers as well.
AUSTRALIA (Melbourne) | May 2016
My first time ever in Australia– Melbourne–hence I have 1 more continent left (Antartica) to complete all 7, heh! This is Flinders Street Station– apparently one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.
Girls’ trip to Melbourne with Victoria Cheng and Xindi Siau. Here we are at the stunning Montalto Winery by the Mornington Peninsula, the only winery with an art/ sculpture tour. They make excellent pinot gris, too, my fave wine this trip! Had a blast with these ladies. <3
GERMANY (Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt) | July 2016
I was honored to represent the Philippines on Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flight from Singapore to Dusseldorf– on their newest aircraft, the Airbus A350-900!
The graffiti houses-lined neighborhood of Kiefernstrasse is something you will never read about Dusseldorf in tourist or guide books. It was notorious in the 1980s for squatting and had connections to the Baader-Meinhof Gang (Red Army Faction). Today it is an isolated street of residential housing, home to 800 people from 40 nations… and has become one of the biggest graffiti “walls” in the world.
At Peter’s Brauhaus in Cologne, I got to try Himmel und Ad (Heaven and Earth), a specialty both in Cologne and Dusseldorf. It was delicious and hey, black pudding is meant to be a super food.
How absolutely precious to have a glass of white wine– riesling to be exact– while on a castle (Rheinstein Castle, 1.5 hours from Frankfurt) overlooking the River Rhine? This is the stuff dreams are made of.
DENMARK (Copenhagen) | August 2016
My first time in Copenhagen!!! I love the colors of Nyhavn!
Geranium was PERFECT. There was no dish I didn’t enjoy, and service was top form (friendly, engaging, informative & always three steps ahead). One of my most favorite dishes is this Salted Hake (marinated in parsley ash, which mirrored the design of this plate), and then doused with buttermilk speckled with parsley stems and Finnish caviar. Absolutely phenomenal. It is No. 28 on the World’s 50 Best List, and it is the first and only restaurant in Denmark to receive 3 Michelin stars.
A large part of my memorable time in Copenhagen was becauseof this amazing woman: Jin Perez (aka Jin Loves To Eat)! My daily lunch & dinner date– we booked our restaurants a month before our trip so we couldn’t meet up with anyone else only before or after our meals (that’s how committed we were to our food!) From 1) Relae to 2) Taller to 3) Geranium to 4) Hija de Sanchez to 5) 108 by Noma to 6) Radio– every meal with her was a blast.
Danish hotdogs are da BOMB! I was skeptical too at first but Denmark’s first street food is longer than the bun, crunchy-crisp on the outside and tender inside, and topped with everything– fried and sautéed onions, pickles, mustard, etc. etc. Steff Houlberg is one of the best and even when you’re in transit at Copenhagen Airport, you can get at Terminal 2, near Gate C. Promise it’s really good!
USA (New York) | July and September-November 2016
Congratulations to the 2016 World’s Best Restaurant– Osteria Franscescana in Modena, Italy! Here I am with chef-patron Massimo Bottura, and Asia’s best female chef, our very own Margarita Fores at the 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street
And I bet you’ve never seen Eleven Madison Park like this!!! What a fantastic after-after-party with Questlove DJ-ing.. And some of the best chefs in the world Daniel Humm, Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse, Zaiyu Hagesawa, and Massimo Botura. On. A. Ledge. This is history. Was so much fun!!! Watch:
And here’s… Eleven Madison Park (what it normally looks like on a regular day) <3
To be able to have lived in New York City for almost 2 months this end of September to November– and do my work while here– was true luxury for me. I am forever grateful. <3
Oh you know, just another Monday morning in New York City chatting w/ Kate Hudson & Michael Kors about fighting world hunger. This selfie was taken by Kate, she’s an expert!
Not going to lie, I totally freaked out when I woke up one day and saw celebrity chef MARCUS SAMUELSSON started following me on IG!!! I’d been following him for some time now and love Red Rooster in Harlem (I blogged about it, too). He wasn’t there when I went so I introduced myself in real life when I saw him at the God’s Love We Deliver gala hosted by Michael Kors where he was a presenter :)
So the best place to have negronis in NYC, in my humble opinion, is Dante in the West Village. They have a Negroni Sessions menu, where from 4-7PM daily, each of their negroni variations (there are some fun ones w/ chocolate; w/ fluffy orange juice) are $9 each.
My first Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) ever!!! Courtesy of the wonderful Likver family at their home in Brooklyn. Challah bread dipped in honey, apples dipped in honey, dates, new fruit (pomegranate), chicken soup, fish head, veal tongue, fried liver, beef brisket, tea cookies, and of course lots and lots of wine! It was really precious and I was so happy to be a part of it. Shanah Tovah!
Being in America during the US Presidential elections and following it all (I made sure to be home or where there was a TV to watch all 3 debates!) was something else.
One of my fave FAVE restaurants during my time in NYC was Llama Inn in Brooklyn. I’m glad Pete Wells agrees with me; he just named it his Top 10 New York Restaurants of 2016 on his New York Times column. Finally! This is their version of the Peruvian classic lomo saltado– a must order!
My New York City pillars!!! I would have absolutely lost my mind if it weren’t for these incredible bunch who were there for me during my ups and downs: Talia Jimenez, Edgar Morales, Jorsand Diaz, Mich Bengzon, Rohit Gandhi, Jean Fernando, Breann Chiero. Love you guys!!
USA (Dallas, Texas) | September 2016
Visiting my aunt (my dad’s sister) Lani Tee in Dallas, Texas was so special and my first sense of family having traveled around for a little bit. I really felt so at home and had the best time with her. We went to mass/ church everyday and also ate like there’s no tomorrow. <3
What an awesome and awesome-looking chapel in downtown Dallas. The gist of his homily by Fr. Jonathan when I went was that no matter how many times you walk away from God, He will never walk away from you; He will always be there. 🙏💗🙏 Believe it or not, the rock band KISS, along w/ Paul McCartney and Princess Grace of Monaco, have come to visit here, too.
You can’t visit Texas and not have some Texas BBQ! In Dallas, Pecan Lodge in downtown does it *really* well– beautifully smoked beef brisket, homemade sausage, pork ribs, with sides of fried okra & mac n cheese.
MEXICO (Mexico City) | September 2016
Happiness is seeing your best friend from when you were students in Budapest in 2003… who extended her transit in Mexico City (while husband & baby went on to Morelia) so she could spend time with you. 💗💗💗 My 1st time in Mexico was in 2011 for her wedding in Riviera Maya & I haven’t seen her since.
Attending Sunday mass at Mexico City’s stunning Metropolitan Cathedral: As hard as it can be at times, I think that it’s so important to trust the timing of your life. When you try to “play” God and take control of the situation, you end up at the bottom of the pit. So just have faith & believe that all that’s meant for you will happen at the right time, and that there are loads of even more beautiful things in store for you in the future.💗
My first Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremnony ever!!! And reunited with my chef-friends Mitsuaru Tsumura of Maido in Lima, Peru, #2 Restaurant in Latin America for 2016 and Virgilio Martinez of Central in Lima Peru, #1 Restaurant in Latin America for 2016 (for the 3rd year now!)
Meeting and reuniting with my fellow World’s 50 Best Tastemakers at the Latin America’s 50 Best Awards Ceremony <3
I got to eat in Mexico City’s best restaurants: Quintonil (squash blossom stuffed with raw shrimp), Biko (4 textures of corn), Nico’s (deep fried maguey worms) Pujol (suckling lamb taco) and Rosetta (pickled sardines on toast)– and highly recommend them to anyone visiting the city!
Seeing the original Our Lady of Guadalupe image up close in Mexico City.. incredible right?!
This amazing lady, Blanca Villarelo (formerly president of Madrid Fusion Mexico), planned a complete FOOD TRIP for me! We began with breakfast at one of the oldest restaurants in Mexico City, Cafe de Tacuba to merienda and Triana coffee at Mercado de San Jose; to lunch (and mezcal tasting) at Nico’s; to dinner number one at Dulce Patria; to dinner number two at Pujol.. with lots of girly stories in between! Thank you so much Blanca for making my last day so memorable!
JAPAN (Tokyo) | November 2016
The Atelier Nespresso Tokyo event was an opportunity for me to reunite with my friends from around the region! JAAN chef Kirk Westaway (Singapore), Hong Kong Tatler’s Charmaine Mok (Hong Kong) and Jungsik chef Jungsik Yim (Korea/ New York City)
Dining at Narisawa was a very special experience for me. Yoshihiro Narisawa uses Japanese produce and ingredients and executes them with very meticulous French techniques, in line with his satoyama cuisine, connected to the preservation of the natural environment, approaching his kitchen with the theme of “harmony of sustainability and gastronomy.”
TURKEY (Istanbul) | December 2016
Turkish rose is some of the best in the world! Gorgeous, light, refreshing and easy to drink.. if you like rose (especially the Provence-style ones), don’t miss out!
We, a group of journalists and chefs from around the world, were in Istanbul for GASTROMASA, the biggest gastronomy event in the country, organized by the amazing Gokmen Sozen.💗 For 4 days, we explored this incredible city together, from historical sites to culture to lots and lots and lots of FOOD!! Spot Elena Arzak, Andoni Aduriz, Albert Adria, Josean Alija, Andre Lima de Luca, Fatih Tutak, Somer Sivrioglu, Serkan Guzelcoban, Chef Geeta Bansal, Mason Florence, Melinda Joe, Crystyl Mo, Leiti Hsu in this photo :)
This was my first experience of “Turkish fine dining”.. at Neolokal and I loved it. Chef-owner Maksut Askar is one of the most respected in the country & re-creates traditional Anatolian dishes with modern techniques, using local and seasonal ingredients. It’s a MUST when you come to Istanbul!
Kokorec is a very popular street food in Istanbul, especially after a night out. It is lamb intestines wrapped around sweetbreads on skewer and grilled over charcoal… and… it… is… extremely delicious!!!
I was in Istanbul during the twin bombing attacks by the Besiktas stadium. The flag of Turkey on Taksim Square (this is the view from my hotel room; we were pretty close to the site) flying half-mast the day after as a sign of mourning. What’s amazing I discovered is the resilience of the Turkish people who will never back down and let terrorism win. I join them in this quest.