30 degrees, sun, friendly people and excellent Caipirinhas is what I can report this far.
Last weekend I visited the Slovak capital of Bratislava. I’ve been wanting to visit the city for quite a while, and finally it was time. The easiest way to get there, at least from Stockholm, is to fly to Vienna in Austria, situated about 70 kilometers from Bratislava. Bratislava actually have its own airport, but there aren’t that many flights, and no direct ones from Stockholm. So instead we flew Austrian Airlines, which was a nice airline with free drinks and friendly staff.
Bratislava castle. The Bratislava weather in mid September was in the high 20’s Celcius with about 28-29 degrees and great clear blue skies.
Bryndzové Halušky is the national dish of Slovakia and consists of gnocchi like potato dumplings served in a creamy sauce of bryndza sheep’s cheese. The dish is additionally topped with fried bacon and in our case chives. A surprisingly delicious dish. We tried it at Zylinder restaurant in central Bratislava that was very nice.
The second day we went to L’Olive at the five star Arcadia Hotel. This was supposed to be the highlight of the trip, but unfortunately the food was quite bad. It tasted like it had been kept warm for a couple of hours, and the experience was borderline disaster even though the staff were friendly, the wine good and the restaurant itself nice. But it all comes down to the food for me, and it wasn’t good, at all.
One day we took a day trip to the small city of Modra in the foothills of the “Small Carpahtian” mountain range. The area is a wine region and we visited the Ludvik Winery for lunch and a wine tasting. We were also able to visit the vineyards, situated a couple of kilometers from the vineyard on a hill overlooking Modra.
Hearty but delicious lunch at Ludvik Winery. Pumpkin puré, slow-cooked beef cheeks, vegetables and jus.
We tried five different of Ludvik’s wines. All were delicious, but the cabernet sauvignon rosé and the pinot gris were extra good. Had to buy all of them except for the grüner veltliner (also good, but not as spectacular as the others) with me home. Slovak wines were surprisingly delicious in my mind.
A quick visit to the mini-cellar at Ludvik (they have their big one outside of the winery).
We also had time to try the delicous ice cream at Luculus in Bratislava.
Last dinner in Bratislava. Another hearty but quite nice meal at Modra Hviezda. A large piece of deer served with purple potato mash and a cognac-caramel sauce. Not very refined, but totally edible, and a very nice atmosphere in the restaurant.
Then a quick hop over to Vienna, Austria. A very nice thing in Vienna is that if you’re using the airport train, you can check your bags in at the train station (like in Hong Kong for instance), and then you won’t see your bag before you’re back home again. We had a couple of hours to spare before our flight from Vienna and was happy to not have to drag our bags around while exploring the Austrian capital.
When in Vienna, eat Wienerschnitzel. We tried it at the famous Figlmüller that’s been serving up schnitzels for the last 110 years. The veal schnitzel was delicious, but I actually liked the cheaper pork schnitzel more. It was juicier and had more taste. Shame on me, I guess. The schnitzel came with no condiments, but we ordered the field potato salad that was really good.
Another must do for me in Vienna is pastries. We had the above creation, a raspberry white chocolate cream sort of thing, and a delicious cappuccino at Vidoni, close to were the airport express leaves at Wien Mitte. It was really good and pretty much everything I hoped for in a Viennese café.
So, that was a weekend of eating in Bratislava, Slovakia and Vienna, Austria. Both were very nice cities, and I can really recommend Bratislava. Inexpensive, beautiful and easy to navigate.
Spent another weekend in Finland recently. The reason for the short trip was that my two aunts turned 60 and 50 years old, and thus they held a 110 year birthday party in the Finnish woods. Since the party venue lacked running water and electricity, we thought that we should start the trip the opposite way, staying at boutique hotel Klaus K in central Helsinki and have dinner at one michelin-starred Ravintola Olo.
Cosy but viewless room at Klaus K.
Above average breakfast buffet at Klaus K. Not a huge amount of food, although decent, but quality was high and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much at a breakfast buffet before.
Time for dinner at Ravintola Olo. A very cool feature of the dinner was that our bread was already waiting for us, unbaked, raising at the table. Later on they took the raising bread to the kitchen, then returned it baked together with “country style” butter, garlic soup and a delicious Finnish craft beer. The entire dinner felt very Finnish, in a fancy restaurant sort of way. Olo was probably one of my favourite meals ever. And at just €69, the small tasting menu – the shorter way – was very worthwile. Three glasses of wine (and a glass of beer) was only €39 more. Great value for the high quality, service and ambiance.
First up was “finger food”: baby turnips with black currant leaf emulsion.
Second was semolina porridge with trumpet mushroom, quinoa and smoked reindeer heart. A very innovative dish that was so good. Great textures with silky smooth “porridge” and crunchy quinoa making a great contrast. Also very deep rich flavours from the broth, mushrooms and reindeer heart.
Pikeperch with Finnish cucumber, scales, roe and dill sauce. Again, very Finnish in a refined fine-dining way.
Hand-cut beef tartare under an egg yolk with sour cream, poppy seeds and custard seeds. The thing that looks like a ravioli is actually the egg yolk forming a thin crust around the delicious beef tartare.
Veal sweetbreads with chanterelle puré, fried chanterelles, fried kale, black currants and jus. Again, delicious flavours, although I could’ve passed on the black currants, though I understood their purpose in the dish.
The dessert was very cool: juniper, birch syrup and spruce shoots. Pretty much the taste of a Finnish forest incorporated into a dessert.
As a fin(n)ish: cake pops:y chocolate truffles on small tree sprigs. A great end to a fantastic meal. Visit if you can when in Helsinki.
The day after a 110 year party, you’re entitled to pig out at Finnish burger chain Hesburger. Keros Ateria or “floor menu”, their version of the big mac with fries, onion rings and garlic mayo. Good stuff.
We were most fortunate to have saved up on our Eurobonus (Scandinavian Airline’s frequent flier programme) miles last year, and using them we booked a trip that was really, really something. The trip started in Stockholm and continued on to Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Bangkok and finally Manila, Philippines, where our first stop was. We then returned home by flying from Singapore to Bangkok, Paris and finally Stockholm. Without further elaboration (if you want to find out how to do it, read up on Flyertalk.com, Businessclass.co.uk or Swedish version Businessclass.se) below are the pics and some comments from the flight. Read here about the actual trip to Manila, Boracay and Singapore.
Early morning in Copenhagen, waiting to board Lufthansa’s flight to Frankfurt.
Tasty breakfast in Lufthansa’s business class.
Fast forward to Frankfurt airport and a glass of champagne in the Lufthansa Senator lounge.
Hello spaceship seat. Thai’s A380 first class offer large seats that are converted into a bed when it’s time to pass out after the free-flowing Dom Perignon 2004.
Decent leg room.
Small lounge area for first class passengers. No one really used it except for us.
This friendly guy was head of cabin on both Frankfurt-Bangkok and then Bangkok-Paris on our trip back.
Starters. Cheese and crayfish mini sandwiches. Crayfish were good, bread a bit soggy.
The traditional caviar serving. Very delicious.
Without a doubt is this the best thing I’ve ever had on a plane. Lobster with linguine pasta and cream. The lobster wasn’t even remotely dry, which really surprised me. Washed down with Dom Perignon it was spectacular.
Bed’s made, time to pass out.
After a quick change of planes in Bangkok, we boarded Thai Airways’ Boeing 777 in business class.
Book-the-cook meal of pad krapow gai wasn’t that exciting.
Manila, big city.
After two and half week in Asia it was time to fly back. First up was Singapore Airlines in business class.
Singapore Airlines intra Asia business class cabin on Boeing 777-200.
Champagne (the very delicious Charles Heidsieck), water and a Singapore Sling.
Book the cook lobster thermidor.
Thai Airways’ royal first class lounge in Bangkok.
First class passengers have access to a complimentary 1 hour massage at Bangkok Airport. Opted for a one hour foot massage that was great.
The first class lounge have an a la carte restaurant that serves a decent club sandwich, among others.
Cheese platter on the Thai First leg to Paris. In general this flight was less good than the one from Frankfurt to Bangkok. No idea why, but food was mediocre and service not as good.
Coffee and dessert.
Went for the eggs benedict for breakfast. A quite hideous experience with eggs so hard boiled/poached that the yolks were crumbly. The hollandaise was some kind of sauce base with artificial lemon flavour, the bacon were fatty and oily, I guess the English muffin was edible. Barely though. I should’ve understood this though, eggs benedict are easy enough to mess up as it is.
All in all though, it was a fantastic experience and I’m hoping to do this as soon as I’ve saved up on the miles again. Won’t be anytime soon though I’m afraid.
Recently visited South America for a three week trip which started on New Years Eve in the fantastic city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Except for fabulous beaches, friendly people and the world’s largest urban jungle there is plenty of good food to be found.
We arrived the legendary city early new years eve, and went right away to meet two friends for some jetlag-beating sunshine, beer and prawns on famous Copacabana Beach.
Grilled prawns with garlic and lime at one of the Copacabana beach restaurants.
Caipirinhas (lime, sugar and Cachaça – Brazilian sugarcane liquor similar to rum) enjoyed at a beachside bar on Ipanema Beach.
Not surprisingly, many restaurants in the Copacabana and Ipanema areas were fully booked, and lazy as we were we hadn’t made any prior reservations. Fortunately we found Stambul (yes, without the “I”) in Ipanema. A Turkish restaurant that had one available table for four hungry Swedes. Not the most genuinely Brazilian first meal of the trip, but hey, the food was great and they even had a Capoeira performance on the street the restaurant was on.
After our Turkish dinner, we walked down to the beach were the famous fireworks were to be at midnight. A guy on the beach offered to rent us four beach chairs, and so we did. The guy then took us trough the crowd and set up our beach chairs smack bang at the water’s edge with amazing views over the fireworks paired with a couple of mean Caipirinhas. The party then lasted into the morning hours, and despite Rio’s reputation, we had no trouble at all running around along the beach till 5 a.m. On the other hand there was a massive security presence as well as lots of people out all night long.
Morning after visit to the Sugarloaf mountain and then a hearty delicious lunch at Galeto Sat’s with mixed meats, Brazilian specialty broccoli rice, fried, vinaigrette (sort of like pico de gallo), eggs farofa and a couple of local beers together with a (seemingly) bunch of happy hungover locals.
Another lunch was at Devassa in Ipanema. A nice Brazilian buffet with seafood rice, pastels (similar to empanadas), black bean stew, chicken and various salads.
One of the best meals of the entire South America trip was at Churrascaria Palace. A “churrascaria” is a restaurant serving grilled meat, usually offering as much as one can eat with waiters moving around the restaurant with the skewers, slicing meat onto the guest’s plate. Churrascaria Palace offered a really nice churrasco with an initial buffet of starters such as high quality cold cuts, fresh oysters, cheeses, nuts, salad and similar. After the starters the churrasco followed. We had tenderloin, fillet mignon, chorizo, lamb, chicken, chicken hearts, ribs, grilled cheese and more. Everything was really delicious and we basically rolled out after finishing. No desserts were tried.
The following day we went on a food tour that we found on TripAdvisor. The tour company is called Eat Rio and the idea is tours that get you to know Rio by “strolling along the streets, eating the food and rubbing shoulders with the locals”.
First stop was at Nova Capela in the Lapa area of Rio. We had actually visited Lapa the night before to check out the famous nightlife, and it was fun to be back during day time when it was much calmer (and you actually paid attention to the buildings and not just the party crowds). Anyway, at Nova Capela we had some delicious fruit juice that I of course forgot what it was, and “Bolitas de Bacalao” deep-fried cod croquettes that was really, really good.
A stop at the fruit and vegetable market in Gloria neighbourhood.
Some amazing mango was had at the market.
Then we went on to “Tacaca do Norte“, an Amazonian restaurant, where we had Amazonian soup with salty prawns and jambú (a numbing Amazonian plant) in a slightly tart broth. The cool thing with the jambú was that it was mildly narcotic, numbing our lips and changing flavors. The result was that the accompanying Amazonian Cerpa beer tasted salty. Very cool. If you had “Kava” in the South Pacific, this was similar. We also tried a tasty crab dish as well as a proper Acai bowl.
The final stop on the tour was Severyna de Laranjeiras where we had a couple of (delicious) dishes as well as drinks. We tried delicious pastels (the Brazilian version of empanadas) which is deep-fried and filled with everything from prawns, to meat or cheese. The ones at Severyna was amazing, especially dipped in chilli sauce. We also had baked prawns, prawn stew, slow cooked meat, pumpkin, black beans and finally a splash of clarified butter to make everything extra delicious. A couple of fruits from the fruit market was also used to make passion fruit caipirinhas. A very delicious end to a great tour.
After food tour-visit to the favela Babilonia and the bar “Estrelas da Babilonia“. The visit featured an initial climb into the favela by motorbike taxis and then a walk following the stars on the ground showing the path to the bar. It was slightly tricky but we were rewarded with great views over Rio de Janeiro as well as cold beer. On the return trip down we walked.
Rio – what a great city
As most people, I have read about violence and crime in Rio, and in the beginning we were very careful with hiding our cellphones and leaving our camera at the hotel during night time. But we felt safe pretty much all of the time and had no trouble what so ever. Police and security presence were high in most areas we went to. Of course though, you need to be aware of your surroundings and you should not flash expensive phones etc since there is definitely crime happening although we weren’t affected. But we really enjoyed our visit to Rio de Janeiro with its friendly inhabitants, great scenery and fantastic food.
We flew sort of direct (a short stop in Cebu, then back onboard the same plane) from Boracay with Singapore Airline’s “low cost” affilliate Silkair, which proved to be very nice. They had a wireless onboard entertainment system that you could use on your own device (no wifi though), tasty food and complimentary drinks.
I’ve visited Singapore once before, and by then I had the idea that I think many have of a futuristic little city country with harsh laws, extreme cleanliness and a general feeling of surveillance. I did not get that feeling at all when visiting fortunately, and neither did I this time. They have harsh punishments for certain crimes, true. But as a foodie destination I really love it. It’s clean – yes, but more in a no-rats-and-no-trash-in-the-water kind of way than in a scary way. Anyway, we began our trip by using the limo company Blacklane for the first time. They are sort of like Uber, but you can pre-book them which is handy. A friendly guy named Herman picked us up in a spectacular Mercedes and we were driven to our hotel Sofitel So Singapore for not much more than a taxi. We used a discount code though, but they are easy to find by a quick google search. In our fancy ride from the airport, driver Herman told us about our hotel being very close to Lau Pa Sat, a large outdoor (and indoor) food market in the middle of the Singapore CBD. Anyway, below is the best we had.
Bak Kut The aka “meat bone tea”. A tasty, spicy broth with pork ribs and condiments. Had at Ng Ah Sio in Marina Bay Sands mall’s food court.
Chicken and prawn satay (grilled skewers) with peanut sauce, cucumber, raw onion and a pitcher of Tiger Beer. So good.
Grilled beef satay.
Built in the 19th century, Lau Pa Sat or Telok Ayer Market has for a long time provided food to hungry visitors. These days, they close the street in the evenings when the satay stalls lit up their barbecues where they produce some of the best skewers I’ve ever had. The atmosphere, prices and food was actually so good that we spent four out of six nights at Lau Pa Sat. Either for food, or just for a beer on our way back to the hotel.
One of Singapore’s most famous dishes: The Chilli Crab. A giant steamed crab that is then stir-fried in a spicy and sweet chilli sauce and served with “mantou” deep-fried buns that you use to soak up the sauce. Chilli crab is a messy but fantastic experience of sweet crab meat, spicy sauce and crunchy fluffy mantou buns. Don’t forget to buy napkins from the vendors.
Really delicious Korean fried chicken at “4 Fingers Crispy Chicken”. The kimchi coleslaw was spectacular in its obvious tastiness.
Fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold again, fold, fold, fold AND fold. DTF’s dumplings are folded at least 18 times. And they are crazy delicious.
Dan Dan noodles (spicy sesame and peanut)
Chilli and cucumber salad.
Sautéed water spinach.
Taiwanese pork chop with egg fried rice.
Xiao long bao.
Din Tai Fung is an old favorite of mine since my student days in Sydney where first got our addiction. Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese chain of restaurants that these days is operating in both Asia, Australia and the US. They just opened shop in Dubai, so they’re at least moving towards Europe. A few of their outlets (at least in Hong Kong) has been awarded Michelin stars, and that is despite not being particularly fancy or expensive.
Din Tai Fung’s most famous dish is the xiao long bao aka the soup dumpling. XLBs are basically dough that is folded at least 18 times and wrapped around meat and jellied meat broth, that melts when the dumplings are steamed. That means that when you bite into the dumpling you will experience light dough, meat, and soupy broth at the same time. You will also get the sensation of dipping them into the DIY dipping sauce of hot chilli paste, soy, ginger and black vinegar. It is ridiculously tasty and I try to visit Din Tai Fung each time I’m at a place who has one.
We ate at Din Tai Fung Marina Bay Sands and it was delicious, of course. Except for the XLB, Din Tai Fung also have a few other dishes that’s really delicious. Our standard order is above water spinach, chilli-cucumber salad, spicy dan dan noodles, and Taiwanese pork chop with egg fried rice. Washed down with a Taiwanese beer it is definitely one of my all time favorite meals.
Light show every night (free) at Marina Bay Sands. Bonus views of the pretty CBD skyline all night long.
There’s actually decent beaches in Singapore. This one on Sentosa Island.
Above is Hainanese chicken rice from vendors “Tian Tian chicken Rice” and “Ah Tai” in Maxwell Food Centre. When I last visited Singapore there was a chicken rice war between the two, since Ah Tai used to work for Tian Tian but then got fired/resigned and started his own shop in the same hawker centre. Last time I thought the rebel chicken rice stall Ah Tai had the better version, this time I’d say that Tian Tian had reclaimed the Hainanese chicken rice victory.
Lunch at Lagnaa in Little India. Tasty butter chicken, palak paneer, jeera rice and naan.
One of the last dinners of the trip was at Equinox restaurant. Equinox is located in the Swissotel Stamford building, located on the 70th floor. The food is not fantastic, but still very tasty, and the view is really to die for. Above is a rib-eye steak with marrow bone, black truffle butter and black truffle mac n’ cheese (that was amazing). Prices are quite high, but are kind of worth it since food is good and view’s as mentioned fantastic. If you’re after view but do not want to pay 100 SGD for a steak, you can do like we did last time and visit the adjacent New Asia Bar for a drink instead.
Delicious Godiva Soft Serve ice cream at Godiva, Suntec City Mall.
Our last dinner in Singapore was at Yayoiken Japanese restaurant. The place is very high tech and you order and pay for all food and drinks through a table-side tablet. We had tonkatsu, tempura prawns and gyoza which all were really delicious. Prices were really good too.
A visit to the “Arab Quarter” where we visited the beautiful Masjid Sultan Mosque and had a tasty falafel at House of Kebab.
Then it was time to fly home. The flight from Singapore to Bangkok offered this sunset as well as Charles Heidsieck champagne and lobster thermidor onboard Singapore Airlines.
Currently enjoying Gothenburg and Hotel Clarion Post during a mini break in Sweden’s second city. Below are a few pics from the stay.
Take away Danish open sandwiches (smørrebrød) from Jacob’s at Stockholm’s central train station. The smørrebrød was then enjoyed onboard the MTR Express train to Gothenburg accompanied by a bottle of Henriot Champagne bought at the train cafe.
Halv special or half special, a Gothenburg classic with sausage in a bun with the addition of potato mash.
Breakfast at Clarion Post.
Clarion’s rooftop pool and view.
Amazing dinner at Trattoria La Strega. Cold cuts for starter, then king crab pappardelle and finally tiramisu. A bottle of “Bandita” Barbera d’Asti to drink. The crab pasta was probably the best meal I’ve had this year.
Sitting on the plane bound for Singapore at the moment and thinking back on the Boracay experiences from the last seven days. Boracay, as you may know, is an island in the South China Sea, mainly famous for its pretty beaches, more specifically “White Beach”.
But if you know me, you know it won’t be just beach life. One has to eat too. On Boracay, we stayed at the Mandala Spa and Resort, situated among lush greenery on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. Since we arrived quite late we opted to have our first meal there, a miniature tuna dish and healthy Thai red curry with whole grain rice in the resort’s Prana restaurant.
Mandala Spa and Resort
Mandala Spa has a massive focus on health and relaxation. So much that we were upgraded to a “Digital Detox Villa” that lacked both wifi and a TV. Even worse, the mini bar was only stocked with things like dried mango, healthy nuts and organic wine. That is no wifi, no tv and no beer. I felt like I was part of the movie “Couples’ Retreat”. Fortunately things improved. The TV, i could not do much about, but we cheated on our digi detox-room with locally purchased sim cards. To be honest, the reliability was quite poor, but it worked better than no internet at all (to the resort’s defence there was free wifi in the lobby). We also bought local beer from the local super market, and abrakadabra, the only-organic-wine-issue was a thing of history as well.
In all seriousness, the Mandala Resort and Spa is probably one of the better places I’ve stayed in, and despite I can’t really live without internet, the villa, the surroundings an the staff was really great. The food’s a bit expensive though, and portions are a bit small. You do feel however, that there is some serious thought into the options, all I tried was quite delicious despite being made extra healthy. Especially their breakfast dishes were really delicious, although slightly pricy compared to other options on nearby White Beach.
The food of Boracay
Above: tuna main course, as well as quinoa pancakes with mango for breakfast at Prana, Mandala Spa and Resort.
If healthy holistic food is not what you’re after in Boracay there are several other options waiting for you. We did quite a lot of research before our trip and tried a lot of different places on Boracay and being an island, there aren’t any fantastic food experiences, but still very good food to be had. Below are my favourites.
Above: Choriburger, wonut and giant pancakes at Sunny Side Cafe.
Sunny Side Cafe
Our first day we had dinner at the Sunny Side Cafe. The Sunny Side Cafe has (at least) two sister restaurants on the island, Spicebird and Super Magic Burger, and is a modern hipsterish coffee shop meets restaurant. They are serving western-style breakfast dishes like French toast, pancakes, grilled sandwiches and really good coffee as well as twists on local favourites like the Chori-burger, a delicious spicy chorizo burger with a sweet and spicy tomato dressing, served in one of Sunny Side’s fluffy brioche buns. We actually went back several times to the SSC and enjoyed both their eggs benedict made with perfectly poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise and thick cut bacon. I also tried their ginormous pancakes with cream cheese and mango. Sort of pricy for Boracay, but very good food and drinks. Not to miss is also their dessert “wonut”, which is a deep-fried waffle which we opted for having served with fresh mango, whipped cream and nutella. So unhealthy, so delicious.
Location: pretty close to station 3
Above: Pandan pancakes filled with “lechon” suckling pig, as well as stir-fried lechon at Mesa.
Mesa is a sort of fancy Filipino restaurant chain that we saw both in Manila and on Boracay. One of the perks of eating at Mesa Boracay is that they have extended the restaurant (although many White Beach restaurants did this) on to the beach itself. So you sit on the beach itself enjoying dinner. From my experience this is something you usually have to pay extra for in certain resorts. So I found it very nice. Anyway, the food at Mesa is very nice and especially so is the crispy lechon. Lechon is basically a roasted suckling pig, a very popular dish in the Philippines. At Mesa, you order from 1/6 of a lechon (which the two of us did) up to an entire pig. The lechon is served two ways, sliced in pandan pancakes and then the remaining lechon is stir-fried in chili and garlic. Sort of like peking duck. Except for the pandan pancakes that were on the dry side, the both dishes were really delicious. The stir-fried suckling pig (note that they stir-fry the already crispy roasted pig) was really something. Best dish we had on Boracay, but also the most expensive at around 1 000 ++ Php.
Location: Close to station 2 at the Henan Resort (former Boracay Regency).
Above: Pizza at Aria.
One night we did a short break in our Filipino eating experiences since we were both desperately craving pizza. We did a little research about the local pizza situation, and based on empirical evidence from a walk-by combined with written reviews we went for Aria restaurant. Aria is an Italian restaurant located adjacent to D’ Mall near Station 2, and I read good things about their truffle pasta, but it was pizza that was the focus of the night. We ordered a Greek pizza, with olives and feta, and a “Diavolo” with mozzarella and spicy salami. Pizza’s were surprisingly great and I really enjoyed mine. The dough was nearly perfect but the mozzarella cheese could have been better.
Above: Smoke Resto, bulalo and crispy pata, at Smoke Resto.
When visiting Manila, one of our taxi drivers started chatting with us about Filipino food, and I asked him about his favorite dish. “Bulalo” he answered, and as it happened, Smoke Resto on Boracay had been awarded for the best bulalo in the entire Philippines. Smoke Resto is an authentic Filipino place situated in sort of an alleyway just off White Beach. We arrived quite early and was immediately seated at a table, however just a couple of minutes later the place was full and a line had formed. We ordered (of course) the bulalo, which is a soup with beef shanks and marrow bones that are cooked for a long time to make a really flavoursome broth as well as melt-in-your-mouth-tender meat. I can see why they won their award, a seriously tasty soup. We also tried “crispy pata” which basically was a deep-fried “schweinshaxe” or pork shank, and we also had their beef in dark soy and garlic sauce served with rice. All their dishes were quite simple in look and ingredients, but so tasty, as well as inexpensive. An added benefit was that the place felt really authentic, much more so than many places on the White Beach Strip.
Above: Garlic fried chicken at Gerry’s Grill.
We visited Gerry’s Grill first in Manila and then again on Boracay when we learnt of its existence. Food was as good as in Manila and we tried their pancit noodles, their pork floss adobo, garlic fried chicken, water spinach and grillad pork skewers. Everything delicious, although not spectacular. Prices are very good though.
Above: D’Talipapa market action as well as our prawns that was bought at the market and then cooked at Sababi Paluto restaurant.
D’ Talipapa and Sababi Paluto restaurant
The local wet market on Boracay is called D’ Talipapa and is located along the main road a few blocks from White Beach. We had a bit of a struggle to find it, but if you walk up to the main road along the street up from White Beach that passes a McDonald’s, you’re on the right way. When you reach the main road, turn right and just walk a couple of meters until you see signs to D’Talipapa. You can also reach it through the alleyways from White Beach strip. Can’t really give a good description for that though. Well, the experience then. We visited quite early in the day, and the market was quite relaxed. The idea is that you purchase fresh or still alive seafood or fish from the vendors, you need to haggle a bit. We did not reach that great of a deal, but we were happy with the small discount we got as it was a fun experience first and foremost. We bought a dozen of prawns and went to the nearby Sababi Paluto restaurant since they had the most customers. Paluto means that they cook the food you bring according to your instructions, and we got a small menu with prices for the different options available and opted to have our prawns sautéed in butter, garlic and a hint of chili. The food took a little while to arrive, and meanwhile we could enjoy watching the grill chef cooking others guest’s whole fish fillets, making us regret only buying prawns. The food arrived and was really delicious. Although the prawns were slightly expensive, having them cooked was not, so all in all it turned out to be one of our both best and most inexpensive meals of the week on Boracay. Very recommended both for the experience and the tasty food.
Above: Real Coffee Boracay’s chicken sandwich, coffee, juice and kalamansi muffin.
Real Coffee Boracay
They have dishes like grilled sandwiches but are famous for their kalamansi muffin which I found was the best of the things I tried. Coffee is also better at Sunny Side (above).
Location: just outside D’Mall with views over the beach from second floor.
Above: Juice at Jonah’s fruit shake.
Jonah’s fruit shake
On main road, so a bit of treck through alleys if you’re going from White Beach as we did. Worth the walk though, ask a local if you can’t find it. Note: it seems like there was (or still is) a Jonah’s on White Beach itself, but we couldn’t find it. So we walked from about Gerry’s Grill towards the main road and managed to find it after asking a few locals. It’s not far, and the fruit juices and shakes are delicious.
After an amazing flight in Thai Airways’ first class (no, I did not win the lottery, I just saved up on air miles) we touched down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport for three days of eating and exploring the Filipino capital and mega city Manila.
Since we got a really nice price (for a Peninsula) we opted to stay at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, situated in Makati, one of sixteen cities that make up Metro Manila – an area with a 35 million population.
Our first day was spent mainly lazying around the hotel and its vicinity. We had a pretty good, but by Manila standards hideously expensive, dinner in the hotel’s Spices restaurant featuring Pancit stir-fried noodles with pork, chicken and prawns. We also had Inihaw Baboy, a grilled pork dish.
Our second day was spent touring Manila’s walled city, or old town Intramuros (inside the walls) built by the Spanish in the late 1500s. We selected to get a private tour with “Yolo Tours” which for a reasonable price merged their Intramuros and food tour into a one day experience.
We begun by visiting the Manila Cathedral where we managed to walk right into an Easter mass attended by lots of locals. The Philippines is quite religious and roughly 85 percent consider themselves Christian.
During the World War II Intramuros was heavily damaged (according to our guide basically flattened out) by American bombings of the occupying Japanese invaders. One church in the area managed to survive the war though, the impressive San Agustin Church that was opened in 1607. A hidden secret rests in the church’s ceiling and walls. What you ask? Read on next week and I’ll tell… Just kidding. The secret: All the stone carvings are actually painted.
Bull’s ball soup in Binondo
After the interesting and sometimes sad history lesson of Intramuros, Manila and the Philippines we went on to Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown.
Our first stop was the Café Mezzanine, a place that the local volunteer fire brigade additionally had as their hang out between alarms. We did not experience it, but the restaurant has their own alarm bell, signaling the firemen when there is a nearby fire. We were their for a couple of dishes. First and foremost the soup number five.
Soup number five is a potent (pun intended) soup with bull’s testicles as its main ingredient. It felt somewhat appropriate to enjoy balls for which the restaurant profits went to the volunteer firemen which definitely showed some balls putting out fires in their spare time. How was it then? The soup’s broth was quite tasty. Salty and fatty. The bull’s balls themselves weren’t the best thing I have had, but tasted basically like fatty beef.
Next stop was “Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant” where we had crispy Filipino spring rolls, or “Lumpia”. We also had a quite delicious crispy fried oyster cake; sort of like an omelete-pancake with fresh coriander. The final thing we tried at Sincerity was “Machang”, sticky rice with pork and chicken mixed into it, and then baked in pandan leaves. Filipino paella, according to our guide.
Next stop was a fried “Siopao”, a steamed bun, sort of like a bao. The bun was filled with salty and slightly sweet pork, and was in addition to steamed fried on one side.
I love Halo-halo
Since we took the tour on a Sunday, a few of the restaurants that was normally on the tour weren’t open. Because of this our guide threw in a few extras and we got to try our first halo-halo at national chain Chowking.
Chowking’s halo-halo was surprisingly good to be honest. Halo-halo means ‘mix-mix’ in Tagalog and that pretty much what you do. You receive a bowl with ube (purple yam) ice cream, evaporated milk (the stuff you cook for dulce de leche), leche flan (egg custard), coconut, shaved ice, jack fruit strips, sweetened white and black beans, plantains and jelly which you mix-mix together. It’s fresh, it’s desserty at the same time, and it’s really good.
After the final food item had been injested the tour finished and we went back to our hotel to pass out for a while.
After waking up from our bull’s ball and halo-halo inflicted sleep we needed more food. Close to the Peninsula is the Greenbelt shopping area, a mall complex with restaurants, shops and so on. By advise from our guide we went to a Filipino restaurant there called Gerry’s Grill. We tried “Sizzling pork sisig”, fried pork parts (such as snouze, liver and ears) that was served with kalamansi lime and suppossedly is a popular beer snack.
We also had lechon kawali which is roasted suckling pig belly. We had it with garlic rice and wilted water spinach and it was quite enjoyable and price (1100 php for two including 2 beers each) felt reasonable for the area.
One of the best hotel breakfasts and THE BEST goat tacos
Day three was spent lazying around the hotel for the first part of the day. The Peninsula served up a really good breakfast buffet with both tasty bread (usually hard to find); crispy bacon (also rare on buffets); fresh tropical fruit; yoghurts; cold cuts; local food like pancit noodles, garlic rice and pork adobo; pancakes; waffles – they also had an egg station and my first ever seen juice station. In addition to that they had some seriously good homemade pastries. My favourite one was a mango and vanilla cream Danish pastry with the fresh melting-in-your-mouth mango slices and the soft smooth vanilla cream contrasted by the perfectly crunchy danish. Mm-mm-mm.
After hyper-ventilating for a couple of hours we were again hungry. Based on advise from a couple of friends we set foot on a place called “El Chupacabra”, or “the goat sucker”. The chupacabra is a goat blood-sucking creature that according to some is a myth.
Nevertheless, we were their to suck some goat ourselves, and after some initial confusion we managed to find the place in an alley close to Makati Avenue (totally walkable from Peninsula/Greenbelt Area).
We ordered the spicy goat meat taco (cabrito) and the “al pastor”. Both were seriously good, I would stretch as far as to say that the goat taco was the best I’ve ever had. Spicy, tender meat, super-thin corn tortillas and simple yet delicious condiments. Good prices too, so definitely a must visit if you like tacos and find yourself in Manila.
The rest of the day was spent in the giant Mall of Asia where we went to see the Manila Bay-sunset. Although we couldn’t see that much of it due to clouds, it was pretty cool to stroll along the water together with lots of local couples and families hangig out there. By recommendation from our food tour guide we also tried Philippino fast food-chain Jollibee that has spread as far as Doha Qatar lately. Wasn’t terribly impressed unfortunately (sorry Filipinos) with my Champ burger.
Our last meal (okay I had one more of the awesome Peninsula breakfasts, but that does not count) in Manila was the Halo-halo Harana. The HHH is one of Peninsula Manila’s signature dishes and is a fancied-up version of the Filipino national dessert. It contains leche flan, chickpeas, sweetened kidney beans, coconut gel, the purple yam ube ice cream, sago, evaporated milk, jackfruit, creamy coconu and rice puffs. This was really a treat, but on the other hand it was about 850 php including service and taxes which would’ve been expensive for a dessert even in Sweden. It was so good though!
After the final mix-mix our time in Manila had come to and end. We’re currently enjoying one of the prettier places I’ve been to: the island of Boracay, under an hour’s flight from Manila.
Visited Rome in November 2015 for a weekend of eating, sightseeing and general indulgence. My judgement might be slightly affected by the fact that I totally love Italian food and that the weather was 20 degrees celsius and the sun was shining. Something very important for a Swede coming from the borderline winter that is November. In short: I loved Rome, its amazing pasta, its sights, the easy walking everywhere and the friendly atmosphere in the city.
Must visit 2: Fontana di Trevi.
Delicious pizza slices at Il Melograno, close to Fontana di Trevi.
When in Rome (sorry), eat gelato! And oh how good this gelato at aptly named Wonderful Ice Cream was.
Pantheon by night.
Before the trip I spent considerate time researching the city’s best carbonara. One of the often-mentioned places was Armando al Pantheon. Of course I had to visit (reservations recommended), and I wasn’t disappointed. The best carbonara I’ve ever had. Creamy deliciousness with egg yolks, crunchy, fatty and salty guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) and pecorino cheese.
A decent Saltimbocca alla Romana, not nearly as good as the carbonara, but totally edible. Pounded veal with ham and sage, cooked in a white wine reduction.
Tasty Tiramisú. Still at Armando al Pantheon.
Next day: The Vatican. To get into St Peter’s square itself, there’s no need to queue. To get into the museums, you can either wait in line or buy a fast track ticket. Since we had limited time we opted to buy fast track tickets from the Vatican Museums website and saved ourselves a few euros by not going through an agency. Link to where we bought our tickets, we paid roughly 20 euros a person and did not wait at all to get in.
A decent, although not fantastic pizza diavola (spicy salami) at Il Pozzetto.
Fast forward to dinner at Ristorante da Alessio. Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes to start.
Truffle risotto. Not spectacular, but quite tasty nevertheless.
This was really good. A hot sizzling pan with slices of beef, potatoes, courgettes and (I know, wrong country) béarnaise sauce.
The Vatican as seen from Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castle featured amazing views over Rome in all directions and is definitely worth a visit.
The last meal in Rome: Tonnarelli cacio e pepe at Cotto, next door to our hotel. A delicious classic with pasta, pecorino cheese and black pepper made silky smooth combined with some of the cooking liquid. A great end to a great weekend. Pasta is, and has always been, my favorite comfort food. Usually I get disappointed when I go out and order pasta, but of course, Rome did not let me down.