Food Trip: Spatzle

Hubby and I decided to head to Shangrila Mall for his birthday dinner, as we wanted a place that wasn’t too crowded and hubby wanted to show me the new wing at the mall. Fortunately or not, a lot of people had the same idea so we had to look for a resto with a vacant table.

We almost would have skipped Spatzle if not for the crowd – we were quick to dismiss it as just one of those diner places that have popped up everywhere. But as soon as we sat down and got to observing the rustic place and the menu, I’d say good for us.

Spatzle, which is an egg noddle or dumpling prevalent in German cuisine, serves European dishes. I’m a sucker for cozy/rustic interiors and I was not disappointed with Spatzle’s. I love the use if cushioned wooden chairs and the shabby chic charm of their tables – most restaurants nowadays favor metal and plastic chairs, and laminated wooden or plastic tables so it’s a treat to see this kind of plain backyard setup in a restaurant.

Oh, and I found it very thoughtful of them to have added a hand sanitizer in the utensil organizer. All other places scrimp or just assume you brought your own. If only they’d added wet towellettes, I would have been sold. Hahaha!

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Since it was our first time here, we decided to order their Greens Entree, Php 398 and Beef Stew, Php 480. Ever since our Belgium trip last 2013, I’ve been wanting to taste authentic Flemish stew and this  had me hoping to finally satisfy my craving.

Alas, while the salad was very delicious – I loved the fresh and crisp vegetables, particularly the sprouts, and the meat (I know having salad with meat kind of defeats the purpose but so what? ) – but the stew was a bit bland for my taste, like beef boiled in sauce made of whatever was available in the kitchen that day. Or maybe you could blame my tastebuds, since, having tasted the original beef stew right from the source, I was expecting this version to at least be as tasty. Not even the generous heaps of garlic could rescue it for me.

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Luckily, hubby ordered the house specialty, the Spatzle corned beef, Php 498. According to our server, they make their own corned beef. I’m impressed – the beef was very soft and easy to chew, and not very fatty at all. It was served with cabbage, baby potatoes and carrots which were boiled and perhaps sauteed in butter after, which were the perfect foil for the beef. And what a generous serving it was.  We got about eight or so shanks, more than enouh for one person so the hubby gladly shared some with me. I would definitely recommend this dish.

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We wanted to grab some of their dessert but most were not available so we just got a glass of sangria (hubby and I shared), which, in my eagerness, I forgot to snap a photo of. Suffice to say that their sangria is also very nice, if you orefer yours to be of the sweeter variety with none of that bitter alcoholic taste that is somehow inevitable when drinking strong alcoholic beverages.

Spatzle isn’t probably a place that you would frequent very often; though it is in a mall (in the new wing of the Shangrila Mall along Edsa), it doesn’t have much to establish its own identity and make it stand out and make you actively crave for it.

However, I wouldn’t mind going back for a bite of their corned beef. 😄

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Georgie’s First Birthday

November’s a pretty busy month for our family – sisters in law, mother in law, hubby, nephew, and Georgie all have birthdays during the month so practically all weekends are taken. It can get pretty tiring when compounded with the fact that it’s also a busy time at work and the hubby just switched companies (adding his PhD studies to the mix) so for Georgie’s birthday, we decided to just have a quiet dinner near our place.

But before all that, Georgie’s gotta have his first haircut at kids salon Peppermint! On a side note, I know I said I don’t like SM Aura when it opened last year, but I am loving it now more and more – aside from the kiddie salon, Kidzville and Quantum opened a few weeks ago so even kids can enjoy while their parents shop. If only there’s a Zara, Mango, and some decent jewelry stores, I will not shop anywhere else.

IMG_4657Kuya was very patient with Georgie even though he kept swatting the scissors and comb and crying.

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We also made it to the mass at the Pedro Calungsod chapel to give thanks. It was standing room only but a good thing that Georgie was fast asleep; otherwise, he would have cried the whole time if he’d seen the crowd.

I was quite famished by the time mass finished and you all know how hard it is to get decent tables in restos during weekends (and with a stroller in tow, we needed a spacious place for dinner); we initially thought of going to Niu for some steak and wine (and of course, buffet) but they were full.  Yet for some reason, the Magnum Cafe was only half-full. I already knew we’d have dessert here but we got to have dinner there too!

We first ordered their roast beef salad. I’m partial to salads because I generally dislike leafy vegetables but this one had fresh ingredients. How can I tell? The leaves didn’t taste bitter. Oh, and the tasty beef strips probably helped a lot. Food at Magnum is very rich tasting so it can get kind of overwhelming after a while which is why it is best if you come as a group so you can share different items off the menu. Luckily, hubby is always a good sport when it comes to dining out. Teehee.

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Joey loved the cajun spiced chicken. He normally doesn’t like spicy food, but this one had just the right mix of spice, crisp and everything good in between. I didn’t even mind the chicken skin because it was so tasty (but don’t tell my parents – we weren’t allowed to eat chicken skin at our house since they’re not healthy; I used to look longingly at chicken skin and pork fat everytime my mama throws them away before cooking). Joey ate almost the entire serving by himself.

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I love this mash-up of super soft beef and perfectly mashed potatoes. The gravy is to die for!

IMG_4642Of course, as per tradition of having pasta during birthdays for long life, we ordered Magnum Bolognese. It’s basically your standard red spaghetti but with shavings of chocolate to top off all those meatballs and sauce. Very yummy.

IMG_4643And of course, dessert! We got red velvet, for a change. Very nice, not too sweet – but I still prefer their apple pie.

IMG_4641Joey opted to have his own make your own Magnum (but…he ordered off the menu).

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Too bad Georgie missed everything – he slept through it all! Hahaha!

IMG_4644We initially thought of having a birthday party for Georgie’s first birthday. After all, we threw his big brother one almost seven years ago and we wanted him to have a party too. But then, hubby and I realized that Joey didn’t really enjoy his party, much less remember it so we decided we’ll just throw a party when Georgie’s old enough to walk and appreciate the magician and clowns.

Happy birthday my dear little Georgie! You don’t know how happy you’ve made us. I wish you good health and may you grow up to be a God-fearing, obedient boy.

Brera

On our second day, we visited the picturesque neighborhood of Brera, considered by some to be the Milanese equivalent of the Montmarte. In short, it’s the artsy side of Milan.

A lot of websites say it’s walking distance from the Duomo but judging from our map, it looked quite far (or at least more than thirty minutes) so we decided to take the metro and save our energy for actuall sight-seeing and museum hopping.

There are a lot of old buildings and even a castle (the Sforzesco Castle which I will blog about separately) in the Brera district, which got its name from the Lombardian word brayda, or land without trees (either naturally or cleared of it) but it took us quite awhile to find the actual Brera street which is supposedly the heart of this district. Fortunately, a kind old lady helped us and after a few minutes, we found ourselves on a pretty stretch of narrow cobblestone roads and pastel colored houses. It reminded me of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, for some reason.

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So picturesque, isn’t it? Too bad I don’t have a photo here (my face was starting to swell a bit by this time and I avoided close up and solo photos).

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There are many shops and restaurants in and around Brera Street. We found a couple of nice shoe stores selling the cutest ballet flats so we decided to do some retail therapy.

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And that purple seat? I want!

We were quite famished roaming around; fortunately, the entire district has rows and rows of decent looking restaurants . The entire stretch seems popular with locals as  well since we found groups of them, some obviously out on their lunch break, crowding around the nicest restos in the area.

Since we were in Italy, we decided to eat authentic Italian pasta and pizza. Cliche, I know, but that’s what makes it fun, right? Surprisingly, there wasn’t a big tourist crowd in Brera, and we quickly found an almost empty place off the main Street – the Ristorante Il Kaimano Brera.

The staff at the restaurant were also quite funny and friendly, and they spoke English well enough for us to order the exact food we wanted! The place was really small, and they didn’t have an al fresco table good for five; to our surprise, one of the waiters brought out a chair with the two back legs sawed in half – so that it could fit comfortably on the steps! Quite ingenious! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, I wonder why I look so happy in this shot? Perhaps this was after we realized that the can of tomato sauce was being given to us for free (after we gave a generous tip at the prodding of the waiter – I honestly would have been offended if he weren’t so funny).

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Anyway, I was already fighting a really bad case of allergies so I had to make do with just salivating over the pasta with lobster, mussels and clam.  But I did enjoy the pizza, ossobuco, and fried zucchini flowers (which we developed a liking for, since having some for dinner the night before).

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We would have ordered water since it was a hot day but it was so expensive! So yes, we ended up having wine again…

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…and then we drank our bottled water as soon as we stepped out of the restaurant – travel tip #1: always have bottled water with you; water is very expensive in restaurants/cafes/fast food chains in Europe).

A Girl’s Next Best Friend

Diamonds, as they say, are a girl’s best friend. But who says you can only have one best friend?  In my case, I have a lot of best friends so let’s talk about the one that I’ve been obsessing about lately: Pearls.

I’ve always been fascinated with pearls and I keep hoarding them whenever we go to the beach and the locals would sell ready made sets. I never wore them, however, and would almost always end up giving them out as gifts. I never felt like the pearl spoke to me, you know? With diamonds, I wear them small, big, or whatever but I never found the pearl I wanted to wear day in and day out.

The oldest pearl set in my jewelry box is this peach-y freshwater pearl set that I got five or so years ago in Boracay. They’re really small (tiny even!) and lackluster which is why I don’t wear them but I kept the set all this time because I loved the color. Plus, it was a steal at Php500!

IMG_4463I realized that I prefer big pearls so when I saw a manong at the beach during our Bohol trip two years ago, I immediately got the hubby to buy me a freshwater pearl bracelet set in sterling silver. It was quite pricey for me, at Php 400 since prior to that, all my pearl purchases were always Php500/set (earrings, necklace and bracelet). Sadly, I promptly lost that bracelet even before we left the island so I looked for an almost exact replica at the Market Market Pearl Market. This one was even more expensive than the one I lost but it looked so pretty (not in picture below are the earrings which came with the lot) and had a nice sheen to it.

IMG_4464I stopped buying pearls since I don’t really wear them… But a few months earlier, I got this voucher from Jewelmer and I saw the most exquisite golden pearls ever. I immediately googled the price but soon found out just how expensive they were. But still, golden pearls? I never even thought such a thing existed! Pardon my ignorance but I always thought pearls were white or off-white.

Those golden pearls started haunting me. I literally couldn’t sleep without googling and browsing photos of pearls. And I knew I had to have south sea pearls for myself.

But first… I had to test the waters. I figured, if I would buy such expensive jewelry, I should have something I can wear daily. This need is where the freshwater pearl comes in. They’re cheaper and easier to acquire so even if I lose/ruin them, or decide that I don’t want pearls after all, it won’t be the end of the world. So I got myself these baroque freshwater pearl earrings set in silver with cubic zirconia for that extra shimmer. Not exactly cheap (and I didn’t haggle – I’m not good with haggling) but very pretty.

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I tried wearing them daily for a week to see if my mind will change. But nope, seeing them dangling from my ear only made me want the south sea pearls even more.

After that, it was time to go after the big ones – and for this, I googled several weekends away researching the most reputable/safest place to buy south sea pearls (SSP) without breaking the bank. This search led me to Berdori Jewels.

Berdori has a stall at the Greenhills shopping center pearl market. The stalls move around every week so just look for their signage. Anyway, I was just supposed to look but then I saw this gorgeous pair of milky white south sea pearls in white gold with diamonds! I normally take forever when buying big ticket items because contrary to popular belief, I am actually kuripot. Case in point: I had psyched myself for months that I would buy a Tod’s bag and a pair of Valentino rockstud heels but when I got to the store, I couldn’t stomach the thought of spending that much on a bag and shoes. Things that, you know, depreciate. But jewelry… They only increase in value as time goes by. Plus, my heart was aflutter looking at those earring and I knew I had to have them.

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Beautiful, right? It actually comes in a set, with a pendant and a ring, but I couldn’t decide whether I want the set… maybe as a Christmas gift for myself? Teehee. In any case, I decided to get a strand of pearls to match the earrings. The SSP strand was too much for my budget so I had to make do with freshwater. We had a hard time looking for a strand that would match my earrings though; see, SSPs and freshwater pearls have different characteristics, be it their luster, size, or shape. Freshwater pearls tend to be smaller, less shiny, and the shape are more baroque/off circle than south sea pearls. As you can see in the photo below, the individual pearls in my necklace are almost all off-circle. But still, it was barely noticeable because the shade and the size were almost identical. I had to pay a premium for it, however, because freshwater pearls as good as this are quite rare, and therefore, more expensive.

In any case, I am quite happy with my purchase and I keep getting compliments whenever I wear them.

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Now, as I mentioned, what triggered my newfound obsession with pearls were those golden SSPs from Jewelmer. They’re rather too expensive for me and while Berdori has some nice golden pearls, none of them had me reaching for my wallet. So I extended my search to the jewelry section of the major department stores in the city. And I found a pair that made my heart skip a beat.

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The pearls aren’t really gold but champagne-colored and is set in 18k yellow gold with diamonds. See, I am quite predictable in my jewelry choices! Anyway, just see how clearly I am reflected on the pearls! You can almost see me holding my camera. One of the earrings has a small fish bite but it’s off to the side so it’s barely noticeable but overall, I love this pair so much.

I still haven’t given up on those Jewelmer studs – they still haunt my dreams. Hahaha! Maybe that will be my jewelry goal next year. See, I have this personal goal of buying a piece of jewelry and/or watch for myself every year. One time, I got a citrine earrings and ring set, another time I got a diamond ring. I made a notable exception this year since I bought several pieces of jewelry and watches but I chalk that up to all the stress – I cope with it through shopping. Hahaha!

I hope you enjoyed my little pearl reveal!

Sapori Solari

If there is one place you simply must visit in Milan, this would be it. Heck, I would go to Milan just to eat here.

But we almost never made it to this place.

The first problem we had was logistics: the deli (it is, strictly, NOT a restaurant, nor even a cafe – think Santi’s except that they let you eat your cured meats and cheese right there at the store) was very small so reservations are a must. But, the owner/proprietor/all around staff Giuseppe, doesn’t speak English – so we had to ask our landlady to make the reservations; except that our landlady also couldn’t speak English. Yeah, imagine the sign language we had to employ for her to understand us and communicate it to Giuseppe. I never thought that knowing the Italian words for dinner/reservations and the hour of day and number of people can be very useful. My friends were actually very proud of me. Hahaha!

Finding this place was even trickier that we almost gave up were it not for the fact that it was highly recommended and we were so hungry and there were barely any other restaurants along the way. The deli was located in a not so touristy part of Milan, and while riding the tram was confusing, the taxi fare was discouraging. We walked 30 minutes from the train stop before we finally caught sight of its signage (and the anxious Giuseppe almost thought we’d ditched him).

Pardon the blurry image - I was so hungry (it was past 8PM), and tired (we walked more than three kilometers in 30 minutes), and a bit scared that we'd gotten lost in Milan.

Pardon the blurry image – I was so hungry (it was past 8PM), and tired (we walked more than three kilometers in 30 minutes), and a bit scared that we’d gotten lost in Milan.

Giuseppe was the only one manning the deli so we had a bit of time to just take photos and enjoy the rustic appeal of Sapori Solari. It’s exactly how I would have imagined my neighborhood hangout: small and intimate. Not intimidating at all. The best part? Everyone seemed to know each other. That, or they were just plain nice. We even met a very lovely couple – the girl looked like Teresa Loyzaga and the guy looked like Andrew Garfield, except that he’s hotter than the actor. They were so gorgeous and so kind to act as our interpreter that night that we wanted to have our photos taken with them!

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My travel buddies.

We drank some red wine while waiting for the surprise feast Giuseppe was whipping up for us in the kitchen. Now, I am no expert in wine but I do know when I like it or not, and this one? Definitely like.

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The Milan Crew!

Sorry, no close up photos of moi, because by this time, my face had swollen as if bees had stung me and my eyes were almost shut tight – my allergies were acting up because of all the wine and the weather, plus, I haven’t been sleeping very well during the trip so that contributed to my skin problems.

There were only about five tables in the 30 or so square meter place and while it was empty when we got there, pretty soon, it was full of people – Giuseppe had to prepare a makeshift table to accommodate another group!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though he couldn’t speak English, Giuseppe had animal figurines on hand to show us where the meat was coming from, and a booklet (below) to show us what parts we were eating that night. There’s no menu, by the way; he whips up the menu on the spot, based on the meat and cheese available that day. If you’re a picky eater, then this place isn’t for you. But, if you are okay with meat and cheese – this place is perfect. Everything was superb!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were first given different kinds of bread, which tasted so fresh (and we were so hungry) we finished the entire basket in a few minutes.

Different kinds of bread. From what I understand, everything in Sapori Solari is made by Giuseppe.

Different kinds of bread. From what I understand, everything in Sapori Solari is made by Giuseppe.

After a few minutes, Giuseppe served our first tray of thinly sliced prime beef with chunks of ricotta cheese drizzled with olive oil. The beef was perfectly smoked and tasted oh so delicious – not too salty and not pungent at all which is what I hate sometimes when eating cured meat. I am salivating just writing that down and recalling the taste from memory.

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This plate tasted almost too good to be true. It was so good we finished it off before Giuseppe even managed to prepare the 2nd plate.

Our second plate (it’s kind of incorrect to actually say plate, because it was more of a tray – think of a family sized pizza pan), was all about pork. The outer rink in the picture below came from a regular pig (you know, the cute pink ones, like Babe?) while the inner rink came from a local pig (I forgot the exact type which I’m pretty sure I studied back in grade school, but it was a black type of pig). This one was like eating fresh ham and salami, except that it’s fresher, saltier and yet sweeter at the same time. The meat also had a little slimy texture to it that made it feel slippery on my tongue.

By this time, we realized that the bread and cheese (which came with the first plate) Giuseppe served us earlier was meant to be eaten with the meat. Too bad, we already ate them! Probably why Giuseppe almost raised his arms in alarm when he saw us stuffing our mouths with all that bread and cheese. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next plate had this fatty part of the pig which reminded me of glazed Christmas ham, except it was a hundred times better. The dark red meat with white fatty edges was goose breast. Everything was bathed in honey and olive oil and I just died and went to gastronomic heaven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As I mentioned, there’s no fixed menu. Giuseppe will keep serving plate after plate after plate as long as you want. I’ve read of some tourists lasting up to the fifth plate but my friends and I were too full by the 3rd plate we actually had to beg Giuseppe to stop. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter that, he served us biscuits with nuts (reminded me of Starbuck’s biscotti) and some very sweet, nectarine juice. The biscuits were a bit on the hard side and took some getting used to but it had an aftertaste that I kept chasing after – like when you eat something good but the flavor is too fleeting that you want to just eat more so you can figure out what that flavor is? I had several moments of those.

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The Milan Crew with our host, Giuseppe.

What I loved most about Sapori Solari was that it not only served good food but Giuseppe was just about the most unassuming and most accommodating host. It actually felt like visiting your grandparents’ house and being treated to all those family recipe specialties.

If only it wasn’t so late and we didn’t have a long day the next day, we would have stayed and ordered another round. I would gladly have gone back but this was our last meal together in Milan (I went to Switzerland the next day while my friends went to Verona to pay their respects to Romeo and Juliet).

I would give this place five stars out of four. And I will definitely include a stopover in Milan in my next trip just to eat it. Yes, I loved it that much!

Food Trip: Le Florimond

Whenever my friends and I travel, we make it a point to try at least one nice local restaurant. All the restaurants we’ve been to so far have been really good so the bars were quite high when someone recommended  Le Florimond, a quaint little restaurant tucked in the 7th arrondissement.

This place almost feels like a secret among locals; it’s small – perhaps seating only 20 people or so at a time, and a reservation is a must. The reviews were very good so we dressed up for the occasion in our dainty dresses and heels, hired a van, and starved ourselves a bit to fully enjoy the meal.

You can order ala carte, but it is a better deal to order the set menu – it’s cheaper, plus you don’t have to think so hard. They have options for your entree, main dish, and dessert, and the manager himself will gladly explain each item on the menu, which is written on a pop-up blackboard, to help you make up your mind. Their offerings are limited and the set-menu is just a combination of the ala carte items.

Our cute menu on a blackboard.

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I forgot what my soup was – some sort of shrimp bisque if I remember correctly. What I do know is that it was very creamy and tasty. I wanted to ask for fresh bread to dip!

The manager ended up calling us the duck family that night because out of all the options for the main dish, we all opted for the duck, which was fried to perfection: not dry, no raw portions, soft, and savory. And it wasn’t gummy and didn’t have any pungent smell or weird aftertaste. It’s so easy to mess with duck meat but this was perhaps the best duck dish I’ve had.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If I have one complaint, it would be that the dessert serving was too small. I mean, just two muffins hardly bigger than my thumb and a spoonful of ice cream? It was barely enough to satisfy my taste buds. Hahaha!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there’s one constant in our meals during this European vacation, it would be wine. How can we not? It was practically cheaper than water and definitely goes better with our meals! I normally don’t drink wine (it’s one of those habits my parents have that I never quite inherited) but I couldn’t say no to French wine.

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They Say French Women Don’t Get Fat…

…but with all the delicious and seriously tasty food Paris has to offer, I can’t imagine how French women stay slim. It must be all that walking to get to and from train stations. I wouldn’t mind walking either if I have views of the Seine and old buildings to keep me company.

Our first meal in Paris kicked off a gastronomic feast that was to last almost three weeks. We arrived a little after two in the afternoon at our pretty little apartment at the Rue du Pont Neuf and were too hungry to venture too far. Luckily, there were rows of cafes and bistros nearby and we quickly settled at Le Mimosa.

I normally order ala carte since I don’t eat much, but I was so famished that I decided to order the set menu, which consisted of an appetizer, a main dish, and dessert. That translated to egg salad, steak and fries, and lychee panna cotta. The salad alone would have satisfied me: the eggs were perfectly boiled and the dressing was creamy, sweet, sour, and salty in equal degrees. My friends got some liver pate which was so rich we couldn’t stop gushing about it.

Egg Salad.

Egg Salad.

The steak was also great – I ordered it medium and it was a delight that the meat wasn’t rubbery or too thick, or hard to bite. Plus, it was spicy enough to satisfy my affinity for all things spicy, yet mild enough that I didn’t need to guzzle a liter of water. Oh, and did I mention the wine we ordered with it? The wine was so cheap! I think wine in Europe is cheaper than water which was why we ended up having wine with practically every meal while we were in Europe.

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Steak and fries, baby.

The French take their time eating food, and so, we did as the French did. We had a couple of hours to spare before the malls closed so we decided to rush to Galeries Lafayette for some retail therapy (yes, on our first day!). True enough, we were again hungry by the time we got home a couple of hours later and flopped straight into the waiting seats at La Creperie, at the corner of Rue de Pont Neuf and Rue Saint Honore.

It was a no-brainer what to order – I forgot the name of the crepe I got but it was big it filled my entire plate (which was twice as big as my face), and had ham and a big sunny side up in the middle. I loved every morsel of it!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also met a wonderful and handsome French/Vietnamese guy at the restaurant who ended up serving our table for the day. It got me thinking – why are the French so good-looking? I guess that means the not so gorgeous people are the ones who stand out coz in a sea of gorgeous people, they’re not used to plain looks? Hahaha. That means I have a shot then. 😛

There are cafes just about everywhere in Paris which is one of the things I love most about the city of lights. I am a big breakfast person and my favorite meal consists of croissants with lots of butter and jelly, or a croque madame if I am hungry, a cup of hot chocolate, and a glass of orange juice which are quite standard fare in Paris.

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A typical cafe in Paris. People-watching is a serious sport here which is why tables and seats facing the street are always the first ones to be occupied.

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Carbo-loading in preparation for our Giverny/Orangerie tour.

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Happy me.Dining al fresco with a crisp, cool breeze from the Seine is hard to top.

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If not for that McCafe written on the mug, you would never have thought we were eating at McDonald’s, would you?

And well, for those of you in a tight budget, or are having anxiety attacks or homesickness, there’s always a friendly McDonald’s around the corner as well. But again, I am beyond amazed that even their McDonald’s looks so chic? Must be the air!

Again, I say… they say French women don’t get fat; why, oh why? Life can be unfair sometimes. 😛

Travel Make-Up Kit

It's a Charmed Life

When I was younger (teens and my early 20s), I didn’t care much about make-up and skincare. In fact, I never owned anything remotely related to beauty. It was only in my late-20s that I discovered and cultivated an obsession with cosmetics and since then, I’ve become some sort of hoarder, although I have yet to get to the part where I actually learn to use them. 
But even though I am practically clueless when it comes to putting these products on me, I have a tendency to pack every single one I could into my luggage whenever I travel. You know, for that unforeseen event when you would have to do your own make-up and everything. And because I have this weird notion that I know and have the time to put them on before I step out my hotel room for the day, so that I would at…

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Schonbrunn Palace

Ever since our friends Gizelle and Harold moved to Austria and started posting all those wonderful photos, I’ve slowly fallen in love with this country without even setting foot on it. But I think my love affair started even before that – after all, I grew up watching The Sound of Music and all those snow-capped mountains just made me want to pack my bags and live there. Unfortunately, Salzburg wasn’t part of our agenda as it would have been a day-trip from Vienna, where we were based, and we only had three short days in Austria. So I just settled for the Schonbrunn Palace.

Schonbrunn, literally beautiful spring after an artesian well found in its gardens, was the summer residence of the Austrian imperial family (the Habsburgs). It has around 1,441 rooms, a magnificent garden, its own zoo (which is also the oldest in the world!), and even its own Roman ruins. It is huge, as all palaces in Europe are, and it again made me wonder, how in the world did the royal families keep track of each other? I mean, it’s not impossible for the king to actually hide a mistress or two within the same palace without the queen running into her.

Facade of the Schonbrunn. So many people at 10am in the morning.

Facade of the Schonbrunn. So many people at 10am in the morning.

The back of the palace is more breathtaking than the front, IMHO. Maybe it's because of the garden where colorful flowers are all abloom.

The back of the palace is more breathtaking than the front, IMHO. Maybe it’s because of the garden where colorful flowers are all abloom.

The beautiful spring where the palace got its name.

The beautiful spring where the palace got its name.

We took a horse-drawn carriage ride around the garden which made the experience even more fun then hiked up to the Gloriette which overlooks the palace, the garden, and has sweeping views of the city from its lofty perch on top of a hill.

Where to go? Love these colorful signs.

Where to go? Love these colorful signs.

TheGloriette of the Schonbrunn.

TheGloriette of the Schonbrunn.

It was past noon by the time we reached the Gloriette so we had our lunch at the cafe there. I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before but I am a big fan of flavor and spices from that part of the planet – I love paprika to bits – so I shared a goulash and sachertorte with my friend.

Herrengulasch mit Knodel, Wurstel und Ei. In plain English, beef goulash with dumpling and egg.

Herrengulasch mit Knodel, Wurstel und Ei. In plain English, beef goulash with dumpling and egg.

The goulash was okay. It actually reminded us of mechado but I could not figure out what that big lump called a dumpling was supposed to be. I know it was supposed to be a dumpling but I’ve always thought a dumpling was something with meat (or veggies) inside, wrapped up in some flour-based mixture before either being fried or boiled. This one was neither and tasted meh. I think it ruined the meal for me. Hahaha.

Sachertorte, the chocolate cake that Vienna is know for. It's good, but for those accustomed to sweet, gooey, chocolatey cakes, well, this would probably disappoint you as it's quite the opposite. It's hardly sweet, it's dry (even flaky), and it doesn't ooze chocolatey flavors. But it kind of grows on you.

Sachertorte, the chocolate cake that Vienna is know for. It’s good, but for those accustomed to sweet, gooey, chocolatey cakes, well, this would probably disappoint you as it’s quite the opposite. It’s hardly sweet, it’s dry (even flaky), and it doesn’t ooze chocolatey flavors. But it kind of grows on you.

As I said a couple of paragraphs earlier, there is also a Roman ruin in the garden, which was designed and put there sometime in the 18th century during the Romantic movement. Well, I almost thought it was really from Roman times but realized too soon that it looked too perfect where it was (though it pretended to be in ruins) that it couldn’t have dated as far back as that.

Roman Ruins

Roman Ruins

Schonbrunn isn’t as extravagant as Versailles (which, as the world know, is a symbol of French excess) – it’s smaller in scale and at first glance didn’t blow me away with all that bling (whereas Versailles had all this gold greeting you even before you crossed its gates), but it is magnificent in its own way. We didn’t have much time or energy to visit the zoo or go from room to room after hiking up and down the palace grounds so I guess that will be all the more reason to visit Austria again, soon.

Food Trip: Marciano’s

Hubby and I didn’t want to drive far from our house but we also did n’t want to brave the hordes of people who troop to SM Aura on weekends (and here I am, eating my words that Aura is my favorite mall because it’s not crowded) or eat at old favorites over at Serenda/High Street.

The process of elimination brought us to the rows of restaurants at The Tuscany in McKinley Hill. We just had ramen two nights within the week so that crossed out the ramen place, and hubby kept referring to ribs and steaks so we ended up at Marciano’s.

Now, I’ve never been to this place; hubby had though. Interior was nice, quite minimalist, with big picture windows looking out onto the street or onto the rows of condominiums; menu looked appetizing and as it was past 2PM and we haven’t eaten lunch, we decided to have a little feast.

For starters, we got the bruschetta – a plate of six bruschetta spread with generous heaps of tomato sauce. A pair was mixed in with parmesan and salsa, another with slivers of cheese, and the other with thinly sliced smoked ham. Not bad, although I would have added a pinch of salt or pepper since the tomato sauce was a bit overpowering.

Bruschetta, Php 288.

Bruschetta, Php 288.

For our main course, we agreed on the pork medallion and baby back ribs. The plated entrees looked lovely but that was about it. The pork was a bit hard and bland; hubby, who rarely drizzles salt and pepper, took it upon himself to put generous amounts of salt and pepper. I honestly could not figure out what I was supposed to taste because I couldn’t taste anything but rubbery pork.

Pork Medallion with gravy, Php 308.

Pork Medallion with gravy, Php 308.

Here's the succulent looking baby back ribs.

Here’s the succulent looking baby back ribs.

Baby Back Ribs with Potato Wedges, Php 408.

Baby Back Ribs with Potato Wedges, Php 408. Top view.

The baby back ribs also fell short of expectations. Like the pork medallion, it lacked flavoring, even though it looked tasty with all that glazed sauce coating it. On the bright side, at least it was well-cooked. The potato wedges were meh.

Prices were quite reasonable given the huge servings but given the taste, I would say it’s overpriced.  Probably won’t be back here in the near future.