New Year, New Goals

New Year, New Goals

The turn of a year always makes me very emotional. I am not very good with goodbyes, but at the same time, I always look forward to change.

 

We are not too big on resolutions in our home – I find that if setting difficult standards for adults leaves too much room for disappointment, what more for children who are already growing up in a world that thrives on pressure.

 

Instead, we try to make small changes in our day-to-day lives, using lessons learned from the past year to better the present. For example, we recently returned from a 3-week trip to California, with no Yaya in tow. Because of this, my girls did simple chores such as making their beds, washing dishes and assisting me with the laundry. They also helped in looking out for each other. These little acts taught them that they are capable of so much. Realistically, these are things that will be close to impossible to accomplish on a daily basis because of school, extra curricular activities, and the like (we do live in a traffic infested city after all, with so much time being wasted in a car), but there is no excuse for not practicing some of these chores on the weekend, and moreover, not making that conscious day-to-day effort to be more independent in doing things for themselves – from something as simple as carrying their own bags up to their rooms, or getting that glass of water when thirsty, or even cleaning out their closets on their own – these acts go a long way.

 

Back to those resolutions… I tried to tell myself I’d stop shouting in 2018 and by January 1 I screamed before the clock even hit 9am. You see we are all trying our best every damn minute, and instead of trying to constantly change these imperfections that make us intrinsically who we are, why not focus our efforts on avoiding situations that bring out the worst in us?

 

As for me, my non-resolution is to live one day at a time. Too often I try to over plan and get so overwhelmed that I end up making the easy decisions over the better ones. On my first day back to reality, I subscribed to online banking. I know it sounds like a mindless task, but for so many months I put it off because I was always ‘too busy.’ Too busy going to the bank and paying bills, and making calls to check statements – on the spot choices that could’ve all been avoided if handled more efficiently. So this year, no more delaying that project, or putting off that work out, or trying to get it all done at once. This year will be about finding that perfect balance. I want to reach my goals, but at the same time, I also want to allow myself to take those much-needed breaks in the day without feeling unproductive and guilty.

 

So here is to change, but also, not letting those changes change who we really are. Cheers to a beautiful new year!

Paris in the Summer

Paris in the Summer

From warm sunny mornings, to crisp rainy afternoons… there’s nothing quite as refreshing as Paris in the summer. On a weekly basis, my husband and I share a meal together, just the 2 of us, and we did this all day, everyday, in the city of love. Whether it was over duck confit and wine, or crepes and coffee, a place to sit and hold hands after a day of walking through the sights made our trip what it was – a time to just be with each other.

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DAY 1

Lunch

A staple stop for travelers and locals alike is Le Relais de l’Entrecote. They come for the sirloin, but return for the special sauce and the familiarity. Me? I was blown away by the simple yet complex desserts, done immaculately.

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Salade aux Noix

Steak Frites

Entrecote A Point

Le Vacherin d ‘ete

Le Vacherin d ‘ete

Relais Profiteroles

Relais Profiteroles

Pre Dinner

After a leisurely stroll in Saint-Germain, we did a quick stop in the street’s gorgeous corner Les Deux Magots cafe. There, we sampled their simple salad of iceberg lettuce, ham, chicken, cheese, tomato and hard boiled eggs, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette.

Salade Deux Magots

Salade Deux Magots

Dinner

I was recommended to come to Babylone Bis past 9pm because it is open late, and told emphatically that I must try the African chicken. Tender quarters of grilled bone in chicken in African spices, served with rice, fried plantains and a myriad of excellent sauces. This was easily one of the best dishes I had in all of Europe.

African Chicken platter

African Chicken platter

 

DAY 2

Breakfast

Why come to France and not have delicate crepes? In Ar Poul Gwen we had one savory and one sweet, which made for the perfect start to the day.

Fromage

Fromage

Nutella

Nutella

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Lunch

Cafe du Marche is quaint little cafe on Rue Cler street. Known for its confit de canard, which is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, we decided this would be a nice little lunch spot before lying in the gardens by the Eiffel Tower.

A little spritz before the meal

A little spritz before the meal

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

More steak... at a perfect medium rare. And the potatoes were fantastic

More steak… at a perfect medium rare. And the potatoes were fantastic

Dinner

There was something about eating in the Champs-Elysees L’Atelier Etoile de Joel Robuchon that felt very sexy…  Perhaps it was the fun bar seating, or the red and black interiors… Or maybe it was every superb course that kept making it’s way to us. Either way, it was a lovely meal.

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ADDRESS GUIDE

Le Relais de l’Entrecote

15 Rue Marbeuf

Les Deux Magots

6 Place Saint-Germain des Pres

Babylone Bis

34 Rue Tiquetonne

Ar Poul Gwen

11 Rue Etienne Marcel

Café du Marche

38 Rue Cler

L’Atelier Etoile de Joel Robuchon

Publicic Drugstore, 133 av. Des Champs-Elysees

 

A Last Look – Barcelona

A Last Look – Barcelona

Truly one of my favorite cities, I wanted to share some of my favorite spots with all of you.

You can’t help but feel inspired as you walk these streets… Everywhere you look, there is a beautiful structure, just sitting in the hustle and bustle, becoming a part of everyone’s history, just as it had for decades past. You cannot help but stop and revel in the magnificence of your surroundings.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo – building designed by Gaudi

Correos y Telegrafos - even the post office is a sight to behold

Correos y Telegrafos – even the post office is a sight to behold

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Sagrada Familia

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Beautiful intersections

La Boqueria

One of my favorite things to do is go around to the different markets and the one I favored most was La Boqueria for their fresh produce, fruit juices, and little food stalls where you could sit and have wine, tapas and jamon.

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Ceramics

This is probably what I wanted to take home the most. Lovely and vibrant patterns and prints make for the perfect kitchen and table accessories.

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Treats

I treated myself to somethings over there that are a little out of the ordinary – a night out at the theatre, giant fabada beans to bring home to Manila, as well as some herbs for home cooking, and of course, desserts at all times of the day. From ice cream and pastries to churros con xocolate, and my absolute favorite sweet ending… The Gaufre.

I was able to catch the Spanish version of my all time favorite musical Les Miserables

I was able to catch the Spanish version of my all time favorite musical Les Miserables

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My Tia Lulu

I stayed with my grandmother’s very elegant and sassy baby sister. The youngest of 4 women, she is energetic and full of life. I miss this woman every day and she truly made our stay in Barcelona unforgettable.

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Bread. Tomato. Olive Oil.

Bread. Tomato. Olive Oil.

To me, one of the most comforting things about Barcelona was the fact that they served Pan con Tomate everywhere. And many times, it is complimentary! It is so simple – crusty toasted bread, fresh crushed tomatoes, good extra virgin olive oil, and salt. I decided to conceptualize a technique while I was there, being highly inspired and eating it a few times a day (yes, my waistline was not pleased but as the millenials would say YOLO). Ever since, the quick snack has been a staple in our household. I serve it up for merianda for my girls, or even as an accompaniment to jamon and cheese when I entertain.

Because this is such a simple dish, it will only work well if you get the best ingredients. Don’t scrimp on the quality.

I took advantage of the gorgeous tomatoes – the summer harvest brought on so many varieties that I had to ask the lady selling it to help me choose the best one. For this recipe I chose to use the tomate rama, and I got the ones that were bordering on becoming overripe because they are the sweetest of the bunch.

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Here are the main ingredients:

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First step is to turn on the oven. I like using an oven when I am making for a crowd, but a toaster will work just fine for a small portion. Just make sure it is on a high setting to get the bread very crisp.

For the bread, I prefer something sliced a little thin so that it is not so hard to crunch in to. Here I used simple French bread, but at home I find myself using a good sourdough. Slice to your desired size and brush a little bit of the olive oil before placing in the oven.

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For the tomatoes, I crush mine by hand. You can use a large grater as well, but I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.

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To assemble, spread a spoon full of the crushed tomato on to the bread while it is fresh from the oven so it can soak up the juices and semi cook the tomatoes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately.

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My Summer Picnic – Pan con Tomate, Chorizo, Fresh Peaches and Raspberries, Corn Chips, and Almond Pound Cake

Paella Please

Paella Please

Today, the one word probably most directly associated with Spanish cuisine is tapas. But in my youth, there was nothing more symbolic of a Spanish meal than Paella. Filipinos are no strangers to this dish as its main ingredient is a pantry staple – rice. But more than that, it serves as a tradition in countless households.

Sampling many Paellas from different spots definitely completed our Barcelona trip. Here, I share some of my favorite ones.

BARCELONETA

One of the many seaside tables at Barceloneta

One of the many seaside tables at Barceloneta

A gorgeous spot by the ocean, Barceloneta is one of the most memorable restaurants we went to. Asides from the food being exceptional, the ambiance was a constant reminder that we were on vacation. Its menu is catered to a more continental customer, incorporating tapas with mainstream dishes that were elevated. From salads and ceviches, soups, and of course, a variation of rice plates (paella) and fideos, it was difficult to choose what to order. We finally made our selection, and nothing that came to the table disappointed. But more than anything, I can still taste the seafood paella – rice that felt like it had been simmering in the freshest seafood broth forever – saying this was a memorable lunch would be an understatement.

Steamed Rock Mussels

Mejillones de Roca al Vapor (Steamed Rock Mussels)

Calamarcitos a la Plancha

Calamarcitos a la Plancha (Grilled Squid)

Ensalada de Ventresca de Bonito y Cebolla Tierna

Ensalada de la Casa con Bonito (Green Salad with Tuna)

Paella Moll del Rellotge (Fish and Seafood)

Paella Moll del Rellotge (Fish and Seafood)

A closer look...

A closer look…

The sweetest mini strawberries in this cream roll

Postre – The sweetest mini strawberries in this cream roll

Enjoying our seafood lunch by the ocean

Enjoying our seafood lunch by the ocean

 

XATIVA ARROSSERIA

Xativa specializes in their paellas, making use of rice and fideuas  – a very thin and short noodle which soaks up the flavors and juices just as well as rice does. Also a standout, when it came to this national treasure, it is a place I will always return to when traveling to Barcelona.

To start - Pan con Tomate topped with...

To start – Pan con Tomate topped with…

Jamon Iberico

Jamon Iberico

Paella de Cebolla Ecologica Caramelizada Melosa (Caramelixed Organic Onion Paella - Creamy Rice)

Paella de Cebolla Ecologica Caramelizada Melosa (Caramelixed Organic Onion Paella – Creamy Rice)

Fideua con Gambas, Almejas, Sepia y Calamar con Alioli (Fideua Noodles with Shrimp, Cuttlefish, Clams, and Squid and a Garlic Oil Sauce)

Fideua con Gambas, Almejas, Sepia y Calamar con Alioli (Fideua Noodles with Shrimp, Cuttlefish, Clams, and Squid and a Garlic Oil Sauce)

To soak up the juices...

To soak up the juices…

A very happy hubby

A very happy hubby