18 9 / 2014
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17 9 / 2014
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10 9 / 2014
Book Review: Outlander
Verdict: If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and romance (and don’t mind a few saucy scenes here and there) chances are you would like this…like I did. However, don’t expect great literature. Just sit back and be entertained.
Features: Strong female character, pretty good love interest, but definitely a few questionable and disturbing scenes. Overall, a good pace rife with action and relationship building.
A few months ago, I joined a group of gals to embrace the mind-numbing and the somewhat haphazardly written world of smut. That’s right, every month or so, we gather together to discuss the written world of trashy romance novels.
One of the girls recommended a rather lengthy book - not for one of the books that we should all read, as it’s quite an undertaking - but because she enjoyed it and thought it was much better written than some of the other books we had in our assignment list.
And, well…. when you set the bar somewhat low, it’s not too hard to climb over. But, regardless of the comparison to the other harlequin novels out there, Outlander was a very fun journey in it of itself. The premise of the book was very interesting, as it is about a woman from England (herself born in the 1940s) that travels back in time to the 1740s.
In some ways it’s a historical fiction wrapped in a historical fiction. The book is written from the first person point of view of Claire. Although she was born in a time where women’s rights were still rather questionable, she travels back to an era where it’s even more limited in advancements (in both women’s rights and, well, technology as a whole). Another catch? She is already married.
And then she travels back in time.
And then she meets………well, you’ll have to figure out the rest from there.
On a separate note, I’d be very curious to check out the mini series that is being made based off this book! If anybody has read the book and watched the show, do let me know what you think.
10 9 / 2014
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06 9 / 2014
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14 8 / 2014
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01 8 / 2014
Turning 30: life reflections and a lengthy recap
It’s no secret that birthdays are a big deal to me, and why I think everybody should take the day of their respective birth anniversary to celebrate and reflect back on another year of solid aging. This year, turning 30 felt like an incredibly important milestone to me, mostly because I have closed a chapter on a very significant part of my life.
Thinking back a decade ago, I was still in college dreaming about my future. In terms of general life goals, I wanted to build a solid career, make a good salary, move to a brand new city, and - perhaps in there somewhere - even get married (which was further down the priority list for 20-year-old me, mostly trailing behind building a fabulous career and obtaining fame or fortune).
Ten years later, while I haven’t amassed any fortune nor fame, it’s pretty gratifying to say that I’ve checked off most of those general goals off my list. Throughout the past decade, I’ve been through many crazy nights of socializing, had many meaningful late night chats with people about life, been blessed to have the means to take a few whirlwind trips around the world, attended the weddings of many dear friends and family…and, most recently, met the children of several of those dear friends and family members.
And, while those goals of mine at the tender age of 20 seemed far fetched and almost impossible, right now at 30 I can’t begin imagine what lies ahead. In terms of general goals, I still want to keep building a solid career (but not just a career, really find and pursue a passion), hopefully still make a decent salary, find a place to settle and - perhaps in there somewhere - start a family.
Oh, but the fame and fortune thing still holds true.
And while it was a tiny bit sad to me to be without most of my family and friends on my birthday, I still felt the love from halfway around the world. It was - and still is - heartwarming to read through all the messages that reached me through email, texts, and the trusty social network Facebook.
So to all of you who have been there with me since birth, since I was 10, 20, and 30…thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU. The moments we’ve shared and the times our paths have crossed have all lead me to today, where I am fortunate enough to think back fondly on all that has happened so far. If there is any wish I could have come true, it would be for the many other decades in the future to be just as rich, vibrant, joyous and challenging (in a good way) for everyone I love and care about … and, you know, for myself as well.
I thought about whether or not I really wanted to chronicle in full detail my 30th birthday…but, then I realized, for posterity’s sake (which is all lies, really it’s just for me) I’m going to go ahead and do it.
Since I was in Hong Kong, my birthday felt like it spanned the course of two days (I’m sooooo self-centered, I know). W and I decided to head to Macau, the Vegas of the East (our initial plans to go visit they day before had fallen through because we failed to realize that Macau is technically in another country…and we had left our passports at home).
Of course, we had to spring for the SUPER CLASS. For only $100HK extra (or about $12.50) we were seated in a special area and given a meal during our hour long ferry ride.
I didn’t get a chance to capture too many photos of Macau… but I have to say, the casinos might be the largest ones I have ever seen. They seem to tower over anything on the Vegas strip, and inside the casinos are gargantuan chandeliers and massive walkways.
Since our time was limited, I didn’t get a chance to really explore the “cultural’ sites… but still made sure to check out the Portuguese egg tarts (which were ah-maaazing). Probably one of the best egg tarts around, and it was only from a stand in the casino.
As a birthday present, W booked me a massage appointment at the Altria spa - one of Forbes’ top spas.
Yes, I know. I have the bestest bestie with testes compared to all the rest…ies.
The amenities were pretty fantastic. I had my own private room which included a steam room, rain shower and bathroom. The only thing I wish I had done is to take a look around at the infinity pool. Ah, well. Something to do should I ever find myself in Macau again.
After the massage, W and I headed back to Hong Kong (quick trip - but worth it) to go to a special birthday dinner that the hubby booked for me at Bo Innovation.
And ohhhhhh my gawwwwwwwwwwd.
Words cannot properly describe the experience…. so, I made a feeble attempt at recapping it in a separate blog post for all the food lovers out there who wouldn’t mind viewing my poorly captured pictures from my phone.
After an immensely wonderful dining experience, W and I headed back to the apartment where we were staying and called it a night. The next morning, bright and early, we said our goodbyes and he headed off to the airport and I was left with a full day in Hong Kong.
We stayed in the somewhat “posh” area of Hong Kong Island called SoHo, and for the past few days W and I had gone to Lan Kwai Fong (the party street) as well as a few places around the area.
It’s a pretty interesting area, with winding streets and inclines that remind me of San Francisco. In addition to bars, restaurants, salons, and other stores, you can turn a corner and locals would be selling vegetables, meat, and other wares on the street. It’s interesting to see the hum of the modern Hong Kong collide with an environment that’s just a bit more grounded and…for lack of a better phrase word…grittier.
Since the humidity and heat of a Hong Kong summer isn’t exactly the most motivating weather to be outdoors, I didn’t want to meander for too long and decided to check out the highly rated Mandarin Tea Shop at the Mandarin hotel. Funny enough, I ran into one of our dining companions from the night before, who happened to be staying there and also decided to get an early brunch at the same cafe.
Overall, it was very cute and I loved some of the cakes on display. Note to self, definitely get the hubby a Rubik’s cube cake one day….
I over order for myself, per usual…
After lunch, I decided to continue my wandering in an air conditioned environment, which meant going to all the different shops in the area. As one of the locals we met noted, shopping is one of the top activities to do in Hong Kong (and it’s clear why…the stores are numerous and massive). I didn’t buy anything, but as one friend recommended, I perused the expensive items like they were in a museum (they might as well be, given how I basically have the same access to them).
Since it was technically still my birthday (at least, in the US…) I decided to continue with the “treat yoself” motif I had inadvertently created. I took some time to journal and enjoyed a cappuccino and some fancy dark chocolates (the place was recommended by the Russian dining companion I ran into earlier). It was pretty nice to people watch from above, and I’ve come to the realization that for every trip it’s worthwhile to take some time alone to write things down, doodle, and just soak in the day where I have no obligations to anybody.
It’s quite liberating.
Finally, after an hour or two of writing down random thoughts and doodling, I pried myself from the comfortable booth and decided to meander a bit more and then head back to the apartment to pack up and head out (the check out time was 3pm).
When I bid farewell to the apartment, I decided to make my way slowly to the Hong Kong airport express (on a side note, the airport express is FANTASTIC. When we first arrived we had no idea how easy it was to access from our apartment, but once we figured it out it was just a quick 15 minute walk. Definitely going to stay around SoHo again should I go back to Hong Kong, and take advantage of the super convenient and affordable public transit).
One of the benefits of also taking the airport express is the fact that it’s located in the IFC mall building, and connected to the Four Seasons Hotel. Since two people had recommended that I try out the high tea offerings, it dawned on me that I had the perfect opportunity since my flight was delayed and I had an additional four hours to spend in Hong Kong.
I arrived at the mall sweaty and gross (*shakes fist at the 70% humidity*) and then made a beeline to the mall bathroom to do a quick wardrobe swap (thank goodness the Hong Kong mall bathrooms are impeccably clean in the IFC). When I arrived, I was given a nice seat near the window where I settled in and drank an exorbitant amount of tea.
And here comes the gratuitous photos of food…. in 3…2….1….
A few more hours later - after nibbling on each morsel as slowly as I could - I rolled out of the Four Seasons lounge and headed to the airport express.
For the record, it always amazes me how tiny morsels that looks so delicate can be so filling.
And, fast forward even more, here I am… waiting at the airport lounge for my flight to Singapore to spend another half day with my friend and then finally my journey back home. (For the record, International airport lounges with showers are CLUTCH).
To wrap up my final thoughts on 30… I had to revisit my list. I managed to….
- Take a trip by myself to somewhere new (day in London and Hong Kong)
- Purchase my first pair of ridiculously expensive shoes
- Go skinny dipping
- Run a full marathon
- Visit and camp in a National State Park I’ve never been to
- Write 30 handwritten notes to 30 people that mean a lot to me (wedding thank yous count, right?)
- Participate in a flash mob (it helps that a wedding is one of the only occasions where you can ask your friends to do something ridiculous like this for you)
- Ride in a hot air balloon
- Finish writing a short story
- Go see a movie by myself
- Attend a fancy gala or party (weddings weddings weddings)
- Get married (w00t)
While I didn’t get a chance to really check off all 30 items on my list, at least I have a great starting point for my next list: 40 before 40.
To the next decade, and beyond!
01 8 / 2014
Bo Innovation: A Dining Sensation
I’m going to start out this post with stating the obvious: I’m ridiculously spoiled.
I had hesitated, like I have in the past with similar meals, to share photos that I captured during my dining experience at Bo Innovation. After all, I’m by no means a food expert.
But, like the social media whore that I am, I caved because I want to spread the word about the amazing chef and staff that made my 30th birthday even more amazing. After all, who can really keep quite about the three Michelin star restaurant of self-taught chef and all around badass Alvin Leung?
Especially when you get the chance to sit at the chef’s table and actually TALK to the self-taught Demon Chef Alvin Leung.
I walked into the restaurant with no expectations whatsoever. My hubby is an avid food lover - much like myself - and he booked my birthday dinner for me because he’s just wonderful like that. And, since I’m a person that loves surprises, I didn’t want any hint of what was to come.
For those of you like me, you should stop reading now. For others who don’t mind, prepare for tons of gratuitous food porn photos.
As Guy, our culinary captain if you will, said — the camera eats first. And boy, my phone camera had a amazing meal.
The first thing that was presented to us was the “bread.” The Chef made a twist on a traditional Cantonese snack that is usually sweet and served on the street.
It was crispy and tasty with green onion flavor jam packed inside. A pretty awesome start, and we hadn’t even tasted a dish that is on the menu….
The first course was the caviar. It was inspired by fried taro, which is one of my favorite things at dim sum (so you can imagine the wiggles of anticipation and happiness when this was presented). The fried taro looks a bit like a bird’s nest, which is what inspired the Chef. So he created a custom design of a tree, with the fried quail egg, caviar, and gold leaf adorning the top in pure faux avian delicious-ness.
Next was the mulhoe, which is traditionally a dish that Korean fisherman make. They take the catch of the day and mix it together with rice. To make it much classier and even cooler, the Chef used tapioca and pear juice for the rice and water and it was an amalgam of sea urchin, jellyfish, seaweed, and halibut. The foie gras came in a tube with a spicy kimchi (I believe…remember, I did state that I am not a food expert by any means).
Watching Chef Alvin and other members of his staff put this dish together with such precision made me appreciate it much, much more…but not enough to keep me from consuming it like Godzilla upon Tokyo.
Next was the lap mei fan, which is usually a clay pot dish with rice and a Chinese sausage. Instead, they presented it like a baked Alaska, with the sausage flavor in ice cream form.
Next came the umami dish, which comprised of different things that have the umami flavor — naturally, instead of through MSG. Though, if Chef Alvin wanted to serve me MSG, I would probably eat it by the barrel full and ask for more.
Anyway, this dish had black truffle (yum), toro (yumm) and a vermicelli noodle that was submerged in the Chef’s special oil that was made of — essentially — dried shrimp.
For the “xiao long bao” … the reason it is in quotes is because it was presented in what I like to call a flavor bubble of awesome. As the quotes indicate, it’s not in the traditional xiao long bao flavor, but when it popped in my mouth it was the flavorful xiao long bao taste. I could swim in it.
The tomato dish was basically tomatoes done in three ways. It was presented on a Chinese scroll (another custom creation) and, like the Chinese language, from right to left were the “pat chun” soaked in Chinese vinegar, a “lam kok” with fermented Chinese olives, and finally a marshmallow with green onion oil.
The first tomato was riddonkulous in the flavor.
The next course came out in a baby food can and, adorably enough, with a plastic baby spoon as well. This inspiration apparently came from the Chef’s childhood of spam and egg sandwiches. And, to make it even more awesome, there was black truffle in it as well.
If I had eaten like this as a baby, I would have been 100x happier and probably 100x heavier.
The fish dish was a red fish…delicious of course (since this is the theme of the entire meal) and the scales were actually edible because they were deep fried. The scales added a nice texture and crunch to the fish, and of course the ham, mushrooms, and other ingredients work perfectly together.
The blue lobster course came next, which had a really nice kick with a sichuan hollandaise and chilli saoshing broth. Yum, yum, yum.
The next item was a palate cleanser, signaling even more awesome things to come (Meat! Woo hoo!) and it was essentially a play on a whisky sour. Only, instead of traditional whisky, the Chef used what he dubs “Chinese whisky.” (Probably the only form in which I actually like that libation).
It was served in a cup that was modeled after the cups that the Emperors drank from, so our instructions were to hold both ends and tilt our heads back to ‘toast to the heavens.”
I’ll drink to that.
After that delightful interlude, the first meat dish that we enjoyed was the sweetbread. The morself was covered in their own oyster sauce (which you can imagine was exponentially better than any other oyster sauce in existence) and served with an oyster leaf.
Next came the saga-gyu beef… A3 grade of wagyu (I believe). In other words, perrrrrfect marbling with an ox tongue slathered in what was described as the Chef’s semi-rendition of a “mole” - with bakkutteh chocolate. And, the spring onion was vigorously cleaned and fried…from root to tip, it was delicious.
After the richness of the saga-gyu beef and tongue, we were served a custard like almond dish that was a bit of a play on almond. There was the almond from the north, like the normal almond we know, and the other almond which is essentially a peach pit. Refreshing and super tasty!
Then, the final dish came…the coconut, with coconut flavors presented in so many different, mouth-watering ways, and paired with tart cherry tidbits as well.
Of course, even though it was listed as the final dish, the final FINAL treat was the Chef’s rendition of eight treasure tea. Each of the desserts were related to the ingredients in his tea: dragon eye, osmanthus, rose, walnut, dried mandarin peel, Chinese red date, wolfberry, and chrysanthemum. We also had some of his refreshing cold tea served in ADORABLE tea cups with the Chef’s logo on them.
Look at this! It’s ADORBS.
I wanted to stuff it in my purse but the Angel on my shoulder won out and I maintained SOME decorum. Even though I continued to talk about it several times to everybody around me.
Feeling a bit of regret now for keeping said decorum.
More than 16 courses of indescribable palate heaven.
Here’s to 30!