Boise in a list of 40

16 06 2014

WE NEVER forget our first.  I mean to say, “firsts,” as well as all other things worth taking note of.  My first sojourn to the land of world–famous potatoes is coming to an end.  I allow myself to wax nostalgic and I’m not surprised that as I sip through my Tall Breakfast Brew with room for cream and brown sugar mixed in, I couldn’t help but break into smiles as my list of 40 unravels.

They say that life begins at 40.  I think I’m off to a great start.

01

I’ve been made aware of Boise and of Idaho more along the lines of being one of the best places to live in the States, and to raise a family.  I didn’t realize that this assignment would inadvertently allow me to tick off an item on another kind of list:  “TheCNN10 Dare To Go” List, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/05/travel/cnn10-dare-to-go/.

"The CNN 10 Dare To Go" has Idaho on its list!  I have to say, I've ticked this one off!

“The CNN 10 Dare To Go” has Idaho on its list! I have to say, I’ve ticked this one off!

 

01_Arrival_00

eNTeNG, mere minutes from arriving at Boise Airport.

 

Welcome to IDAHO!

Welcome to IDAHO!

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson!  "And I DO like...  Hoo-hoo...  Living under your STOP LIGHT...  Hoo-hoo..."

Ladies and gentlemen, Jennifer Hudson! “And I DO like… Hoo-hoo… Living under your STOP LIGHT… Hoo-hoo…”

 

02

Somehow, it is indeed very nice to know that “in Boise, you are just within 15 minutes of almost everything.”

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road...  Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

In Boise, all you have to do is hit the open road… Always just about 15 minutes from everything!

 

03

In Boise, nature is beautifully and peacefully juxtaposed with modern–day technology.  I was first able to write about a similar observation on my first ever trip overseas, when I delivered a speech at a UN–sanctioned international conference for students held in Japan in 1990.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes.  The Foothills.  The Blue Sky.  The pristine white clouds.

Sights in Boise are easy on the eyes. The Foothills. The Blue Sky. The pristine white clouds.

 

04

I have never driven my whole life.  So that was the first and foremost concern I had when I learned about my trip to Boise.  Cue The Beatles:  “I get by with a little help from my friends”  Cue James Taylor:  “You’ve Got A Friend.”  And of course, cue TLC: “I don’t want no scrubs.  Scrubs is a guy who can’t get no love from me.  Hanging on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride…’  #Ouch!  Hahaha!

 

05

I was able to get my fill, to my heart’s content, of all the Boise State University (BSU) #BRONCOS merchandise I could get my hands on.  Sadly, I wasn’t as fortunate with University of Idaho #VANDALS.

Lovin' my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

Lovin’ my Boise State U #BRONCOS jacket!

 

Hats galore.  The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

Hats galore. The #BRONCOS are for me and my brothers.

 

06

FOR A place with stark interiors, the menu at Dong Khanh Vietnamese Restaurant on Broadway was daunting.  But just like what The Library of Babel T-Shirt says, “You can’t rule the world if you can’t decide what to order.”  So, armed with my own resolve to rule my own world, I zoomed into the taste of the familiar that seemed buried beneath an array of lunch specials and enticing combo options.  I ordered their Pho the first time I was there, and never looked back.  I also never ordered anything else.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh's Spicy Chicken Meal!  Well, everybody but me.  Not because it isn't any good.  It is excellent.  But I'm all about the pho.

Everybody I know has fallen in love with Dong Khanh’s Spicy Chicken Meal! Well, everybody but me. Not because it isn’t any good. It is excellent. But I’m all about the pho.

 

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho!  Probably the best I've had the world over.

My favorite Dong Khanh Beef Pho! Probably the best I’ve had the world over.

 

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers.  And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

The perfect pho benefits from a generous heap of Thai sweet basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. And oh, a squeeze of fresh lime!

 

07

YOITOMO in Downtown Boise may not be the best Japanese restaurant around, but their All–You–Can–Eat lunch and dinner specials are right up my alley.  And I give them a gold star for the most creative names for their dishes.

I've eaten all I could at this place.  At Lunch, and Dinner.

I’ve eaten all I could at this place. At Lunch, and Dinner.

 

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura.  And I could slurp that dipping sauce...  if I could.

I would go through at least five of these awesome bowls of the freshest vegetable tempura. And I could slurp that dipping sauce… if I could.

 

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like.  Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs.  Haha!

This is how the FIRST sushi platter would look like. Then a seeming endless flow would emanate from the general direction of the sushi chefs. Haha!

 

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo.  And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

For the perfectly cooked Japanese rice alone, I would keep going back to Yoitomo. And I mean at least four bowls every single time!

 

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

I knew I would miss these jalapeno bombers / poppers too.

 

08

The undivided love and attention I usually give to an excellent piece of ribeye steak has finally had to yield to some level of sharing.  How could I not with those amazing sweet potato fries?  My first – Legend’s.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend's.

My first plate of steak and SWEET POTATO fries at Legend’s.

 

A knife through the steak.  And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

A knife through the steak. And a sweet potato fry through the dip.

 

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

When I did have a hankering for sweet potato fries, the one from Jack in the Box would do it for me just fine.

 

09

Speaking of amazing sweet potato, the baked version served at Texas Roadhouse, the one with melted honey brown sugar oozing down to the sides, has always been worth subjecting my ear drums to decibel levels that will send me to the EENT someday.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato!  My heart would've melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

I swear that there would be times that I was ready to totally overlook the steak in favor of that sweet potato! My heart would’ve melted way before the butter or the brown sugar did.

 

A close shot of the object of my affection.  Gustatory affection, that is.

A close shot of the object of my affection. Gustatory affection, that is.

 

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse.  Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town.  Haha!

In my ecstasy over the sweet potato, I have totally forgotten about the rolls at Texas Roadhouse. Served hot, fresh from the oven, these are arguably the best buns in town. Haha!

 

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection.  The latter often win.  (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

This steak had to fight with the sweet potato and the rolls for my affection. The latter often win. (But I finished every steak I ever ordered!)

 

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises.  The display alone would make anybody's mouth water.

Texas Roadhouse boasts steaks handcut under refrigerated conditions, within the premises. The display alone would make anybody’s mouth water.

 

10

My seatmate on the Portland–Boise leg of my incoming flight told me that real Idaho potatoes could not be had in Idaho.  If they ever could, they would cost an arm and a leg.  Fortunately, to make my now–famous (haha!) chicken–pork afritada and beef mechado, Winco Foods keeps me covered by stocking up on the best potato in the world!

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others.  All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

I love grocery shopping so much that I would often have my photo taken in front of WinCo, among others. All the time I would wish that a breeze would make those broad stripes and bright stars wave.

 

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

Seen at WinCo – New Crop Idaho!

 

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada.  #BBF Steele became fond of this.

My now–famous Chicken/Pork Afritada. #BBF Steele became fond of this.

 

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

I did bring my very Filipino Chicken/Pork Afritada to the office for #BBF Steele.

 

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

I would often go to WinCo not only for the potatoes but for – and actually more so – the tomatoes!

 

11

Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine, the current office cafeteria concessionaire makes the best Sugar Cookie.  She doesn’t make a lot of it per batch so when she does, I would hoard them.  I share some and the rest, I portion and ration to my own self as much as I could to delay the ultimate gratification.

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

Amazing Sugar Cookies by Pastry Chef Karen of Thomas Cuisine!

 

12

I wish I spoke Italian.  So that I could fight with someone so fiercely, which is the perfect excuse to later make up over a pint of Haagen–Dazs gelato.

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.  Guilty as charged!

I did fall in love with Haagen Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. Guilty as charged!

 

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream.  Well, sometimes.  Haha!  As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

Gelato reigns supreme over ice cream. Well, sometimes. Haha! As you can see, there is real space devoted to frozen delights in my freezer.

 

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this.  I'd see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

My eyes were always wide open for amazing deals such as this. I’d see this and there would only be one logical course of action to do – hoard!

 

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

With TOP NOTES and FINISHING NOTES, it felt like consuming edible perfume.

 

13

For more wholesome pleasures, Tillamook Cake Batter ice cream is the perfect choice.  I can finish the half galloon all by myself until I get sick.

Tillamook's Grandma's Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting.  And on one occasion, I did.

Tillamook’s Grandma’s Cake Batter is so good I could finish this whole 1.75QT tub in one sitting. And on one occasion, I did.

 

14

The best store–bought gelato is Talentis Tahitian Vanilla Bean.  I get it for US$5.99 at Albertson’s.  And for US$3.99 only at WinCo!

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson's and just had to take a snap.  I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven't looked back since.

I saw this pint on the shelf at Albertson’s and just had to take a snap. I took it home with me, fell in love, and haven’t looked back since.

 

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors.  And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

Talenti Gelato comes in a number of really scrumptious flavors. And for just $ 4.39 a pint at WinCo.

 

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

Talenti Gelato goes for only $ 3.99 at Fred Meyer!

 

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

I have to say, I fell in love the most with these two.

 

15

A pint of Ben & Jerry’s will set you back by about US$ 4.00 at your friendly Albertson’s, Fred Meyer, or WinCo.  In Singapore, it costs S$ 15.00.  The exchange rate is US$ 1.00 to S$ 1.30, typically.

Gotta keep lovin' Ben & Jerry's for not being boring.  Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

Gotta keep lovin’ Ben & Jerry’s for not being boring. Well, anybody who makes Red Velvet and Coffee ought to be loved.

 

16

Nothing beats homemade goodnessChase Mecham’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, his grandmother’s (secret) recipe, is so good it belongs to a prominent place on the supermarket frozen section aisle.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, "Chef" Chase Mecham.

The perfect Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is homemade, and is by my awesome friend, “Chef” Chase Mecham.

 

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me.  On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport.  I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

I intentionally set aside half of the pint Chase gave me. On my actual last day in Boise, I savored this amazing homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream while waiting in line at the DELTA counter at Boise Airport. I think it was the best edible item to cap a most amazing 120 days in the City of Trees.

 

17

My first real experience of Mexican cuisine was at my mentor Ralph Kim’s family dinner at his sprawling home of a house.  I had a taste of unforgettable tacos and that killer of a key lime pie!

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos.  It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

My mentor Ralph Kim and his wife and family put out a huge spread of authentic Mexican tacos. It was a great first time experiencing this cuisine.

 

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos.  I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

Ralph made Carne Asada on his awesome, Bobby Flay-caliber outdoor grill, chopped them up, and it was the flavorful, juicy, meaty filling of the tacos. I smothered mined with onions, cilantro and the homemade salsa.

 

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

The flour tortilla was also homemade!

 

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler!  With the brownies and the "leche flan" is the unforgettable key lime pie.

The Mexican dinner ended with a dessert sampler! With the brownies and the “leche flan” is the unforgettable key lime pie.

 

18

I think the Boise Factory Outlet Mall is seriously underrated.  When you’re done shopping, you can actually soak in the awesome view of the Boise Foothills.  (Okay – I can hear you sayin’ that the same could be had right smack from the parking lot.  You have a point.)

 

19

Speaking of the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, I had a couple of field days there, rummaging through the CLEARANCE section at LeVI’S.  I used to only shop where it says S–A–L–E in big bold red letters.  But LeVI’S has changed this to big bold red letters that spell C–L–E–A–R–A–N–C–E.  I got several pairs for myself at only US$ 9.53 each after a further 40% was cut from the lowest–ticketed–price of US$ 14.98.  #SWEET.

"Take an additional 40% off already reduced items."  Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?!  Haha!

“Take an additional 40% off already reduced items.” Were sweeter, more profound words ever uttered?! Haha!

 

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

A wall of denim is always a good thing.

 

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

A pile of denim is also a good thing.

 

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores.  I find this...  what's the word...  ah, therapeutic.  Haha!

Sometimes, I just fold my jeans exactly how they would do it at the stores. I find this… what’s the word… ah, therapeutic. Haha!

 

20

My good friend Chase Mecham, the generous Baker King himself, would usually make his own mix of nuts, seeds and spices that he would throw into his dough mix – the image in my head involves a lot of wrist action like in flouring a counter top on to which the dough would be mercilessly slammed – but on the one he brought for me to sample, he used a mix he found at random at Trader Joe’s.  It’s called DUKKAH: A Nut & Spice Blend.  It was a whiff of inspiration.  Chase’s homemade bread had become my favorite.

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

My favorite homemade bread is by Chef Chase Mecham!

 

What's one of the best things in the world?  Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

What’s one of the best things in the world? Butter melting and sliding down hot toast!

 

21

I was running an errand at Sephora one day when I stumbled upon a kiosk that sells artisanal olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and focaccia so good I must’ve finished all the samples – cubed morsels of rosemary–perfumed goodness – while I carried on an animated conversation with the lovely shopkeeper.  She was so nice I ended up requesting a selfie with her.  And yes, one huge loaf of the bread!  The shop is called Olioteca.  They are online at http://www.olioteca.net/.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca's artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

Zeppole Ciabatta is the perfect tasting bread to Olioteca’s artisanal extra virgin olive oil.

 

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

Artisanal olive oils by Olioteca!

 

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy's.

My lambskin bag of French provenance was the perfect carrier for the very Italian loaf I carried around Macy’s.

 

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

The requisite #selfie with the very lovely shop keeper.

 

22

My good friend Jonathan Young makes a spicy marinara sauce so good, I had to restrain myself from licking the Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ in full view of the Building 36 lunch crowd.  Sometimes, whatever little sense of propriety a person has always comes in handy.

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony.  Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™...  sometimes, why don't we?

Al dente angel hair and smooth marinara sauce live together in perfect harmony. Side by side on this Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™… sometimes, why don’t we?

 

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

The life cycle of this pasta ended with Rubbermaid™ TakeAlongs™ so clean, short of being licked!

 

23

I may have no problem strapping a Rolex on my wrist but at the same time, I do derive as much pleasure – if not more so – from all the discounts I have managed to score, shopping at ROSS, Marshalls, and TJMaxx.  And trust me, it is amazing the bursts of clarity that come with psychotic retail therapy.  I had formed some of my more brilliant ideas while taking a pause beside the clearance racks.  Right there, just beside the further–reduced bins.

 

24

I would wait for the Macy’s commercials on TV.  I love how the word “doorbusters” rings with much profundity.  My favorite Ralph Lauren Trail Sweater in navy blue cost me only US$ 19.60 + tax after 80% was slashed off the original price.  Major score!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

Going all–out with Ralph Lauren, starting with this Trail Sweater that I got for a steal!

 

25

I collect the beautifully designed “scent swatches” (cards) that are used to test perfume or cologne in department stores.  I re–purpose them into gift cards where I write my signature personal notes that come with whatever I give away.

 

26

I thought I was good at making the Filipino leche flan.  And then my good friend Chase Mecham‘s crème brulee came along, by way of one ramekin all to myself!  Same holds true for Filipino specialties that I realize could be made so much better by others – Rafela Sim’s mom Mamita makes the best “ginataang halo–halo”, Arvin Daguro’s wife makes the best “ginataang hipon”, and, Ricky Victor’s wife makes awesome pasta.

Rafela's Mamita whips up the best "ginataang halo-halo."  I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

Rafela’s Mamita whips up the best “ginataang halo-halo.” I had this regularly, lovingly sent over to me the whole time I was in Boise!

 

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro's wife Lea's "ginataang hipon."  (Shrimps in coconut milk)

I finished about five cups of piping hot steamed white rice with Arvin Daguro’s wife Lea’s “ginataang hipon.” (Shrimps in coconut milk)

 

27

#BBF Steele Stone’s lasagna developed in me a deeper appreciation for pasta doused in sauce that has been simmered for hours.

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele.  The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

Major fist–bump–worthy homemade lasagna by my #BBF Steele. The sauce is a study in patience as it is usually made to simmer for hours!

 

#Selfie with #BBF Steele!  Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

#Selfie with #BBF Steele! Of course I wore the Superman shirt in his honor.

 

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel.  They brought me out to lunch on this day.

#BBF Steele with my other best friend, Zach, at the wheel. They brought me out to lunch on this day.

 

28

#Hump_Day_Wednesday means a box of a dozen donuts – often from Country Donuts – shared with the best people you know.  This I learned from the example of #BBF Steele Stone.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise.  An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

It was inevitable that I had to account for my growing vocabulary while I was in Boise. An eighth of my white board took down terms that would soon pepper my own sentences.

 

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays!  I miss these donuts.

This unassuming box of Country Donuts has always been a welcome sight on Hump Day Wednesdays! I miss these donuts.

 

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box.  Like this chocolate–glazed one!

#BBF Steele would often let me choose a donut from the box. Like this chocolate–glazed one!

 

29

Eating gluten–free is not a fad.  With all the pasta I devour, I couldn’t imagine an easy existence if I were allergic to gluten.  So I give mad props to all those who whip up edible works of art that pack all the flavors and nutrients sans the allergens.  I’ve been fortunate to sample muffins and (Bundt) cakes made by Sandy Kralik and Heike Brown.  “There’s even no sugar in there eNTeNGJust bananas.”  They were so good that I went bananas.

The Sandy Kralik "There's–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There" Muffin!

The Sandy Kralik “There’s–Not–Even–Sugar–In–There” Muffin!

 

Heike Brown's luscious Bundt Cake.

Heike Brown’s luscious Bundt Cake.

 

30

Gotta love those oatmeal cookies made by Nick Kaiser.  I had to send him my 10–second review from the very first bite.

Not much to look at and doesn't photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

Not much to look at and doesn’t photograph well (or maybe it is my limited photo skills) but these oatmeal cookies by Nick Kaiser are just awesome.

 

31

Some of the best gifts I have ever received this past four months are handwritten notes.  And I would be remiss if I’d not make mention of all the handwritten cards I did receive.  I’ve been reading them over and over again.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise.  I have to say, these are the best things I'd remember the place – and my time there – by.

Some of the handwritten notes, cards and letters I received while in Boise. I have to say, these are the best things I’d remember the place – and my time there – by.

 

32

I would start my day with happy, fast songs that I think would put the spring to my step.  I can’t listen to Tiesto’s Red Lights without images of South Federal Way buzzing like neon in my head.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

This song comes on the radio and my day would be set.

 

33

I am not afraid of color.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  On two occasions – once in Singapore and once here in Boise – I was told by someone that I bring “Gummy Bears” to mind.  Haha!  I find that to be a huge compliment as it came from two people whose opinions count.

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

Yes, I am a Gummy Bear!

 

34

Trader Joe’s opened in Boise on February 28, 2014.  Of course I was there.  After taking several snaps of the bottles of Cookie Butter on the shelf, I had the urge to clean all 35 bottles on display.

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe's to Boise!

Of course I was there to welcome Trader Joe’s to Boise!

 

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf.  I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these.  I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff.  I was happy to explain!

I just had to take a photo of the display before I cleaned off this shelf. I has to literally elbow my way to getting ALL of these. I also got approached and asked about what cookie butter is and why I seem to be in love with the stuff. I was happy to explain!

 

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

When I may not be in the mood for the butter, I nibble on the actual cookies that inspired the spreadable concoction.

 

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version.  This one gained a lot of fans.

By my second visit to the store, they had already stocked up on the Cookie & Cocoa Swirl version. This one gained a lot of fans.

 

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe's.  Haha!  Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

A pretty common sight after just a few minutes at Trader Joe’s. Haha! Yes, all I would need is about 10 minutes – in and out the door and DONE.

 

Made a friend at Trader Joe's.  Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

Made a friend at Trader Joe’s. Eric would always ring up my purchases and yes, I had to explain to him too my fascination with Cookie Butter.

 

35

The very first car at the parking lot that I took a snap of has the license plate “BELLA”.  I thought the owner was a Twilight fanatic.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

Hello Gorgeous!

Hello Gorgeous!

 

36

I don’t drive but I do lust after cars from time to time.  I’ve had the longest and deepest longing for the MINI COOPER.  Some of the more recent important days of my life had been punctuated by a sighting of a MINI swooshing by.  I think of it as some sort of lucky charm.  There is a nice MINI I would see at the parking lot on some days.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

eNTeNG & the MINI, at the Boise Factory Outlet Mall.

 

... and at Albertson's.

… and at Albertson’s.

 

...  and even in Chicago!

… and even in Chicago!

 

37

I think I will miss my cubicle of 120 days – that little corner by the door of Room 113A.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

The accounting of the final month of my assignment was handled by the Accounting Firm of Stone & Pritchett.

 

And then...  it was DONE.

And then… it was DONE.

 

38

I am ending this assignment feeling so well taken care of by locals.  By those who have given me a ride to and from my apartment and “dream” destinations.  And by all my friends at…  Boise City Taxi!

I Heart Boise...  City Taxi!

I Heart Boise… City Taxi!

 

39

They say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.  I would say, life is what happens when you actually live those plans.  I couldn’t have been anywhere else better in the last 120 days than in 83706, in this Gem of a State.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

With this chocolate, I shall remember always.

 

40

Food that provides real comfort could prove to be perfect for mopping up tears – cue here those singular nights of homesickness – and when made really really well, they could move an old man like me to tears.  Such was the oxymoronic delight that is the Blondie from the Mecham family kitchen, which, as I have unabashedly declared here, is equal parts home baking goodness (by his wife Jen) and a treasured family recipe.  For sure, I will miss this Blondie.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams.  'Nuf said.

The BLONDIE of my wildest dreams. ‘Nuf said.

 

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat.  Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

The sweetest card came with the sweetest treat. Thank you so much, Chase, Jen, Natalie & Elle Mecham!

 

Copyright © 2014 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

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Comfort notes

19 05 2013

OFTEN HERE in Singapore, I don’t need to move away from my desk to survive a hectic workday.  I can successfully keep the insatiable, unceasing hunger pangs at bay with munchies I pop in my mouth from time to time.  You probably think that I could very well have made a pantry of one of the three drawers on my MPD (mobile personal drawer).  To a certain extent, I did.  But I actually survive more through the “love and care for me that is in other people.”

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One morning, I found this paper rose on my desk. I still don’t know who made it for me. Ok, cue the song… “Paper roses / paper roses / …” HAHA!

If only my cubicle walls could talk, I would be regaled with anecdotes of food and notes left on my desk by some of the most generous and it has to be said – lovable – people I’ve ever come across here.  The surprises would come in the morning, perfect for starting one’s day, and any other time in between.  Regardless, they’re perfect for adding a spring – no, make that chutzpah – to one’s step in yet another long day in the office.

The food may have long disappeared – believe me, they’ve had (haha!) – but I have the accompanying notes to go back to and read.  They’re like a warm blanket I can pull up to my chin when the cool breeze blows through my windows at night.

And even in the perennial tropic that is the Singaporean warm weather, there really are times when the cool wind blows.

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I receive a lot of these from my Malaysian friends. But this one, its Chinese name translated to “Black Sugar Biscuit” has got to be one of the ultimate best!

 

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I asked someone to translate for me what these lovely delicious balls of gooey goodness are called. “Black Sugar Biscuits,” he said.

 

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Malaysian treats don’t have to exclusively come from Malaysians. I have a Singaporean friend who always remembers me too!

 

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These biscuits had a (purple) yam filling. Quite scrumptious too! I liked it.

 

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These treats are paper-thin wafers or crepes called “Love Letters,” made by hand by a colleague’s aunt. Each bears a very intricate pattern. They are so delicious.

 

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These two boxes came all the way from Shanghai in China, from a beloved colleague I respectfully call “Ms. Lynda.”

 

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One box contained these sesame seed finger biscuits that had the feel and taste of biscotti. Perfect with tea or coffee.

 

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More cookies in the other box.

 

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This is one amazing sandwich made by Betchie (or by her “Staff”). To this slice I sing, “Sana maulit muli…” Hahaha!

 

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A variety of teas from Rhonee

 

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My current “half-and-half” fixation, introduced to me by Cecille – Cadbury Brunch Bars! Every bar is half guilt, half “good-for-you” goodness.

 

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Two muffins from Ms. Sharon

 

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Chocolates galore! Godiva, no less. And there are so many others. Like that pack on the left. I’m not crazy about chocolates. But it’s nice to be thought of from time to time.

 

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Two of the most heartwarming notes I’ve ever received came from my Bez’s (Glenda) two daughters, Kyla and Keisha!

 

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The letter from Keisha opens up, literally, and actually has a story to it.

 

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This one is from Kyla.

 

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A collage of more recent notes that have been taking up real estate on my wall.

 

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This came posted on a couple of morning treats from Ms. Madeline.

 

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It’s soya!

 

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Saw this on my notebook at the end of a workday.

 

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Thanks again, Ms. Madeline!

 

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Blast from the past – Some really memorable notes.

 

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A lovely note from Trisha. Beside it is a card from Melissa and Sam.

 

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Only a true kolehiyala has monogrammed stationery. Hahaha!

 

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From Dearest Daphne Tatiana!

 

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Of course there is a note from Batman!

 

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A farewell note from my Chinese best friend, Bin!

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Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Jo to the world

18 04 2013
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Ms. Jo and her “dearest eNTeNG,” meeting up in Singapore for the very first time ever. I love how she has always referred to me that way.

MANY PERSONALITIES make me up.  So it is always a monumental task for someone to get me “get me”.  When I find people who do, I try not to lose them.

Where I used to work, I have never been made to feel really understood or really important any better than by Ms. Jo Damian.  She used to be the Senior Executive Assistant to a number of our company’s General Managers (think, Country Managers) before taking on the role of Senior Human Resources Business Partner.  At some point, she was – for all intents and purposes – our HR Manager.  She was a major force behind getting us all here in the Lion City, although nothing was in store for her for doing so.  I guess she got something better – unspoken appreciation, lifelong gratitude, and much love.  She is guaranteed of those, at least from me.

I worked with her on the biggest and highest level programs, and together, we handled most of the Site’s communications.  Our collaborative efforts culminated with the coffee table book “Faces of Memory,” to commemorate all the men and women who were part of our former company.  Call it vain, pointless conceit but that book is on my all–time Top 10 List.  Hahaha!

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Our official photo as the Editorial Team of the coffee table book “Faces of Memory”. With Ms. Jo and me are Jack (left) and Alfie (right).

 

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This was actually my favorite of all the photos. Haha! I love to have been immortalized in this reclining position. Notice the two wristwatches I have on? I do love stacking them.

 

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I’ve always felt that Ms. Jo treats me like her own son. Although she’s more like my big sister.

 

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Ms. Jo wrote me a note on this page of my copy of “Faces of Memory”.

 

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What Filipino photo shoot is complete without the requisite wacky shot?! Hahaha!

Ms. Jo was here for a couple of days last week.  And while I missed the dinner in her honor, I was at least able to take her to the airport and see her off.  I put more weight to the latter, knowing all too well that that is one gesture I do only for the truly deserving.

Thanks, Ms. Jo.  And I shall see you again!

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We didn’t play with ramen. But we did have it for lunch. Alvin and I with Ms. Jo at Ajisen Ramen on the day of her flight back to Manila.

 

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Welcome back to Changi Airport Terminal 2!

 

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Ms. Jo took a Singapore Airlines flight back. I don’t know a better way to fly.

 

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Just two small pieces of luggage – a check-in in her favorite shade of purple and a carry-on (which is actually her laptop). The red bag contained lots of her favorite Bee Cheng Hiang beef jerky. The lambskin leather bag is actually my Longchamp Parisi, just joining in for the group shot.

 

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Ms. Jo knows me like the back of her hand. So when she had made it to the end of the line to the check-in, she knew that I would be grabbing that opportunity to snap shots away. She turned around on this one just in time to catch me striking a pose. Hahaha!

 

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This is the proper one.

 

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Alvin and Ms. Jo.

 

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Then it was my turn.

 

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Ms. Jo, in head-to-toe Marks & Spencer, against the backdrop of Changi Airport Terminal 2.

 

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Spectacles – Ray-Ban Classic Wayfarers in white. T-shirt – “Last Night The DJ Saved My Life” from Malaysia. Bottoms – Adidas running shorts. Wristwatch – Philip Stein Signature Large. Bag – Longchamp Parisi in lambskin leather trimmed with cowhide and/or goat skin. Shoes – TOMS in red corduroy.

 

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“Goodbye… it’s time for me to go…”

 

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Just one more for the road

 

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My reflection on the stainless steel frame of the departure area gate. We waited until Ms. Jo had cleared immigration.

 

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One more time for a selfie!

 

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Take away some FRESHNESS – a slice of New York Cheesecake and a venti Caramel Frappuccino.

 

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eNTeNG, Starbucks Coffee, Changi Airport Terminal 2, Singapore.

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





That’s why this cake is a vamp

7 04 2013
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The “Red Velvet Vixen”, the perfect red velvet cupcake that can only be had at Cupcakes by Sonja, #1 C03 Serendra Piazza, For Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines. They’re now on the web at http://www.cupcakesbysonja.com!

IT’S BEEN a decade since I first laid eyes on the countenance of this vamp.  I made the acquaintance through – of all meansFrom Martha’s Kitchen, Martha Stewart’s eponymous cooking show on the FoodNetwork.  Like the show’s host, this new acquaintance was and still is a study in contradiction.  Fluffs of pristine white ensconce a deep dark red inside.  Bad to the core, you can say.  So bad that it’s actually so good.

Red velvet, which traces its roots to the American South, is a stunning red layer cake with delicious cream cheese frosting slathered in between layers and smothered all over the outside.  When made right, it is a cake of a delicate, tender texture with a subtle – almost fleeting – hint of cocoa that marries wonderfully with a straightforward cream cheese frosting that is often never too sweet.

Here in the Lion City, I think that the best rendition of this beloved dessert can be found at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  I first had it at their BEANStro shop at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.  Nowadays, I would get my fix at their Changi Airport Café.

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The refrigerated display counter at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Changi Aiport, Singapore. Note to self: Check out that yummy-looking Chicago Cheesecake!

 

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This was the first ever slice of red velvet cake I’ve had here in Singapore, at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s BEANStro at the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.

 

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Who wouldn’t order takeaway if they’d put it that way? I realize I’ve been bringing a sweet little box of dreams with me quite often.

 

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CBTL’s version ia a two-layer. I would love a thicker frosting though. But essentially no complaints.

 

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This cake goes perfect with a cup of good coffee. Between the cake and the mug in the photograph, that’s like the two biggest coffee chains in one frame. Hahaha! Notice the smear of cream cheese frosting on the box’s side? That got some serious licking. Hahaha!

But it was in the Philippines where I really fell in love with this classic confection.  I do swear by Cupcakes by Sonja’s incarnation, which takes a sexier, more alluring approach with its name, the “Red Velvet Vixen”.  On their menu, they list it as a “Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing”.  I used to get it every week before the Merlion beckoned.

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On my desk at my former workplace, a box of Cupcakes by Sonja treats is a usual sight.

 

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This was one of the four boxes which I got from the store before leaving for Singapore.

 

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The Red Velvet Vixen is at home sharing a box of six with the likes of Chocolate Surprise and Vanilla Sunshine.

 

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“This is the Traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake made with Belgian cocoa and topped with luscious cream cheese icing.”

If you’re meeting this cake for the first time, you may find that the moment begs the question, “Why would someone want their cake so red?”  Which to me is like asking Lynn Bracken, Kim Basinger’s Veronica Lake look-alike character in L.A. Confidential why she paints her lips in shockingly bright red and keeps her peek-a-boo locks in platinum blond.

I hear her response, “Because frankly my dear, it is pretty.  Make that, I am pretty.”

I would say that the same holds true for the cake.

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I have to say that Cupcakes by Sonja’s Red Velvet Vixen is pretty with a purpose. They’ve tied up with the Philippine Red Cross in the past for fund drives like this one.

 

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eNTeNG ready to devour a Red Velvet Vixen

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Grazie for panettone mandorla and buon compleanno Kuya

25 03 2013
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From where all scrumptious good things come – Pasticceria Chantilly (http://www.chantilly.sicilia.it/), Via Umberto I, 81 98057 Milazzo Province of Messina, Italy. Reach them at +39 090 922 1184. (This and all Pasticceria Chantilly photos are courtesy of Kuya Michele.)

CHRISTMAS IN March made it to our home in the Philippines – in time for Mama’s birthday – after traveling on Lufthansa for 6073 miles from Milazzo in Italy to Singapore, then for another 1475.83 miles on Philippine Airlines from Singapore to Manila.  All those thousands of miles and it had lost none of its charms.

Kuya Michele, my Italian big brother, has gifted me yet again with that star of the Italian Christmas Eve dinner – the panettone.  The first one I got from him traveled with me on utmost comfort on board a Singapore Airlines flight in early January.

This second one was treated no differently – even better I have to say.  Especially since it traces its provenance from Pasticceria Chantilly in Milazzo in the Province of Messina in Italy.  This pastry shop happens to be owned by Kuya Michele‘s brother (Donato) and sister-in-law (Donato’s wife).  Small– to medium–scale family–owned shops never fail to fascinate me and earn my patronage.  Usually, they are purveyors of specialty delicacies with quality that can make large commercial brands pale in comparison.

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Pasticceria Chantilly Pastry Chef and Owner, Chef Donato. He is Kuya Michele’s brother!

 

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The Master of the House behind some of his wonderful confections, almond biscotti and that beautiful cake!

 

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Chef Donato and a couple of his signature panettone. I’m inclined to think that one of those was the one that eventually made it to me in Singapore. Then, the Philippines!

 

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Biscotti and everything else delicious

 

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Another side of the delicious display counter

 

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Santa in chocolate!

 

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Dark chocolate makes me want to sin. Happily.

 

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Pristine white chocolate in various shapes, as well as tender truffles.

 

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I think these are fruit tarts. Very colorful. They give new meaning to bursts of color and flavor!

 

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I see this and all I can think of is, “Let them eat cake!”

 

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I just love this duo of cakes at the counter. I’m thinking that the one on the left is a chocolate panettone all dressed up for the holidays. The other one is perfect for a kid’s birthday party. Could it be Jack and Jill? But I don’t see a pail of water. What about Hansel and Gretel? Hmmm… it doesn’t look like it.

Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly is top notch.  My family loved it so much that it was practically gone the moment it hit the table.  As expected from the eggs and butter in the batter, this cake was rich and fluffy.  “Mandorla” is Italian for almond.  And that’s the fragrant whiff that arrests your senses the moment you let one of these scrumptious confections free from the cellophane packaging.  Then you see the golden brown crust, glazed with sugar and dotted with toasted almonds that further underscore the delicious variety of panettone that just begs to be devoured, putting your sense of self-control to test.

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Panettone Mandorla by Pasticceria Chantilly

 

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A tight shot of this panettone mandorla’s yummy top. Golden brown. Glazed with sugar. Topped with almonds. Yum!

 

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All the eggs and butter that go into the batter make for a rich, fluffy panettone!

Once again, thank you, Kuya Michele for this wonderful gift of an edible work of art.  And while I did greet you already, I want to greet you here again.  Happy BirthdayBuon Compleanno!

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Brothers Michele and Donato

 

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Kuya Michele came back to Singapore bearing panettone mandorla from Pasticceria Chantilly!

 

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Noodles are for long life. BUON COMPLEANNO, Kuya Michele!

 

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That’s all for now. Ciao!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





The universe conspires and makes dreams come true as one comes forth from two

17 03 2013
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The very classy invitation, personally delivered to Singapore by the Best Man himself. I love both the cursive and block fonts used.

MARRIAGE IS the feeling of one in the understanding of two.

After hearing that from the father of the bride, I walked away from my latest wedding reception emceeing gig with the persona of a pondering, pensive young man staring at one of life’s truths foisted on his way.

You live your life single long enough that you soon miss out on life’s little truths and – dare I say – life’s little pleasures.  It takes a wedding to bring things to light.  One could easily dismiss the speech of the father of the bride as the requisite dispensing of pieces of advice – often about how the newlyweds need to be patient with one another and, it has to be said, “work” on the marriage – but that evening, the words I heard reverberated with a deeper meaning and the thoughtfulness of someone who really meant well.

At weddings, we often hear well-wishers encourage newlyweds to nurture the best things that they like about each other, as their separate lives become one life; separate homes, one home; and, separate fortunes, one fortune.  Throw in individual backgrounds that trace their roots to two different continents, and you realize that as a well-meaning friend, you share in your friend’s joy just as much as you whisper a prayer of thanks that this really is one of those when – hold on for the cliché ahead – two become one.

I looked at my good friend of many years, the blushing bride, Mitzi, and I knew that all this time, her life has been made a bit more interesting by the possibility of having a dream come true.  She said so herself in her vows.  Her dashing groom, Sead, dapper in his coat and bowtie, fulfills her dream by coming to her life just when she was ready to receive him.  I’ve always believed that there is something so magical about weddings.  But at that very moment, I also got reminded of Paulo Coelho’s  The Alchemist because it did feel like all the universe conspired to help realize – and make successful – the Zildzic–Nuda nuptials.

The wedding march started at the exact appointed time at San Agustin Church and Convent inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila.  One of the most popular venues for weddings, San Agustin Church is one of only four Baroque churches in the Philippines to be designated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.  A place with such rich history and importance proved to be the only fitting place to solemnize and bless the first day of Sead and Mitzi’s lives together.

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The façade of the historic San Agustin Church and Convent, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

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The ceremonies started at the appointed time. One can’t be inside San Augstin Church and not feel being transported in time by the ornate carving, grand chandeliers, granite floors, and all the gold gilding.

 

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View from the ornately carved main door. Simply breathtaking.

Through this church’s ornately carved main door and beneath a historic  trompe-l’œil ceiling, Mitzi, radiant and doll-like in her white wedding gown with an intricately beaded bodice and a skirt that brought to mind the restless billowing sea, took her trip down the aisle to meet Sead waiting for her at the other end.  Framed by the afternoon tropical sun, Mitzi, my good friend, was a vision.

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One more look at the façade and it was time to head to the reception venue for some final pre-work.

 

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I kept time in check – running to and from home, the church and the reception venue – by wearing a Rolex to this very special event.

 

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Notice the earphones plugged into my Blackberry? It’s because I used all the time I was in the car to rehearse “in my head” the two songs I sang at the reception. One was in Filipino and the other was in English.

As both guest and emcee at the wedding reception, I knew that I had to cut short my partaking in the church ceremonies.  I took one quick glance at my Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air–King and knew that by the time the first reading (by Engr. Rez C. Punzalan) and the second reading (by Engr. Michael S. Borreo) were done, I had to rush to the reception venue to make it to the strict call time of 5:00 PM.  (Being given a “call time” made everything feel quite professional apart from the very personal aspect of being asked to emcee this event many months prior.)

This being an event wherein “all the universe” conspired to make it happen, I wasn’t surprised that at the helm of all the planning was Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners, headed by the very lovely and gracious Ms. Ann Samiado.  As planning for their wedding was a huge production of international proportions – Mitzi and Sead are based in the States, their families are scattered throughout Europe, Northern America and the Philippines, and their friends and members of their bridal entourage are split between Singapore and the Philippines – the couple opted to get the services of a real pro to ensure that their exceptional day will become exactly that – exceptional.

From the church, I hopped back in the car and after a couple of turns along four blocks found myself staring at the impressive façade of La Castellana, as if caught in a space–time continuum that warped me back to Spanish Colonial Philippines.  Located at Cabildo corner Beaterio Streets, Intramuros, Manila 1002, La Castellana, which used to be an ancestral house, further underscored the sense of family and respect for time-honored traditions that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding was clearly becoming to be.

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The impressive façade of La Castellana, the wedding reception venue.

 

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The very first thing I did was meet up with Ms. Kristine, then… I just had to check my outfit on the mirror. Hahaha! I usually wear an all-black ensemble and just put a pop of color by wearing the wedding motif as the color of my necktie or bowtie. For Sead and Mitzi’s wedding, I put on a new pink dress shirt of Italian provenance and a bowtie in fuchsia pink. In my left hand is the clear folder that contains, of all things, the printout of my e-Ticket for my flight back to Singapore the next day. My very trusty travel agent of years now had provided it to me earlier in the day.

 

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The Bayleaf in Intramuros, the venue of the final rehearsal and where I first met Ms. Ann of Beautiful Weddings and her team.

 

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The marker at The Bayleaf Intramuros

I was told to look for Ms. Kristine of Beautiful Weddings who would brief me on the last-minute, final adjustments to the reception programme – just the changes from the rehearsal and “final” run-through we had a couple of nights back at the Bayleaf Hotel, also in Intramuros.  But before I could do that, I had to soak in the sights that were before me.  I walked through the three-paneled entrance and found myself admiring the grand foyer, for a split second finding my synapses struggling with which between the amber crystal chandelier and the huge flower arrangement atop the solid wooden table was the focal point.

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The Grand Foyer, La Castellana. Notice the granite floors, the solid wooden table on which rests that huge flower arrangement, and the famed amber crystal chandelier.

 

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There was a mirror at the Grand Foyer. I couldn’t help it. Hahaha! My perfume of choice for this event? The classic EGOISTé PLATINUM by CHANEL.

I admired the granite flooring, made my deep aubergine English leather shoes of Singapore provenance play against the texture, before my peripheral vision caught the striking color motif of this celebration – fuchsia pink against a backdrop of pristine white – and got reminded what I was there for.  To prepare for my emceeing job and contribute in my own way to make Sead and Mitzi’s day even more special, if that was at all possible.

I stretched my hand out in greeting, as I introduced myself to Ms. Kristine.  Like clockwork, she knew what to pull from a stack of papers, handed me a bag on to which was indicated “For eNTeNG” and quickly went over the final reminders.  As I’ve been emceeing wedding receptions for really close friends for quite a while now – this one should easily be at least my tenth time – I’ve always made it a point to prepare my own cue cards.  I was quite pleasantly surprised that Beautiful Weddings was a step ahead and had actually prepared for me a “professionally made” cue card set.  (This had happened only once before.)

Nerves had always played a part in my emceeing – and singing.  I felt that if I had lost this, together with it would go the excitement that undeniably makes me try my best to do a good job.  I often deal with this by taking a few minutes right there at the reception venue, while it would still be quiet, marvel at how beautiful and appropriate the décor is, and on a piece of paper just write away my opening spiel about what this particular wedding reception is all about.

The Salon de Joaquin Ballroom was set with linen-laid tables, perfectly balanced with the use of Tiffany chairs, very shabby chic in the gold glint of the glossy wood.  The flower arrangements in tall crystal vases, the linen, and the table settings popped as the table-and-chairs décor was not overtly done with fabric.  Everything was elegant and quite stylish.  Even the welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.  I took my seat at Table No. 7: Shanghai and turned my attention towards the direction of El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard).  I saw more beautiful flower centerpieces in a different dominant shade, imagined how romantic the fountain would look at dusk, illuminated by cascading crystal lights, and got reminded of the portents that led to this day.

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Ready for the celebration. A view of the Salon de Joaquin Ballroom.

 

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I like it that they opted for the more classy Tiffany chair than the usual fabric-covered chairs with huge ribbons tied around them.

 

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Table No. 11 is special to me. It’s FOLSOM! I heart FOLSOM.

 

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Table No. 2 is close to my heart as well. It is, after all, my current second home – Singapore!

 

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The welcome hors d’oeuvre platter of a selection of crostini by Hizon’s Catering Services Inc. oozed with the discriminating taste of the refined palate.

 

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Beautiful flowers at the center of each table. There are touches of lilac here. It’s the wedding’s secondary color motif.

 

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Welcome to my table, Table No. 7… SHANGHAI!

 

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I heart SHANGHAI. Once of my best friends in the whole wide world lives here.

 

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My favorite number, 5, is assigned to Sacramento. It never fails to bring to mind the line “If San Antonio sweeps Sacramento…” from the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”.

 

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Awash in fuchsia pink at its special corner in the Ballroom is the three-tier wedding cake. In place of the usual bride-and-groom cake topper is a bouquet of purplish pink roses rendered in fondant.

 

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The wedding cake was a study in contradiction. Outside it was pristine white, punctuated only by touches of the wedding’s fuchsia pink color motif. Inside, the fondant ensconced a sinfully rich, devilishly deep dark chocolate cake!

 

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Right in front of the wedding cake table was the sound system and musicians setup. Here. one of the technicians was performing the sound check. Kudos to the sound people. For an open venue setup like Sead and Mitzi’s, I found the acoustics to be top notch, the speakers well-balanced. (But of course I will defer to the professional opinion of the DJ Raoul on this matter. Haha!)

 

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Subtle touches all around the Ballroom evoke images of the ever-present things in Sead and Mitzi’s life. Pretty ornate suitcases like these two in front of the newlyweds’s table speak of how much travel has been part of their individual lives and more so now as husband and wife.

 

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The newlyweds’s table. Notice how the Tiffany chairs are the same yet subtly different? I could tell which one’s Mitzi’s and which one’s Sead’s. Haha!

 

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Outside at the El jardin de la Luz (The Courtyard), several tables for cocktails and drinks were propped up. On top of each was this beautiful floral centerpiece. Very pronounced on the touches of lilac on these ones.

 

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Beyond these flowers you shall see the Spanish Colonial architecture of the courtyard, the cascading crystal lights and the palm trees that couldn’t help but provide a romantic backdrop to the festivities.

 

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The reception table where guests were orderly received was likewise beautifully set up.

 

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The Zildzic-Nuda nuptials was another exceptional event by Beautiful Weddings Bridal Consultancy and Wedding Planners. The firm is headed by its Principal Wedding Planner, Ms. Ann Samiado.

I tapped my fingers on the linen and found myself overwhelmed with happiness for the beautiful couple.  Before I knew it, the words were escaping from inside me, leaping off of my consciousness as pen hit the surface of paper.

TONIGHT IS a very special night.  I can’t think of a better place to be in to be part of the ultimate celebration of love – than in a wedding.

Tonight, Sead and Mitzi requested the honor of your presence as they give their love its fullest expression.  Fullest expression – don’t you just love those words?

We are all here because there’s always something so magical about weddings.  Look around and you will see that it brings family and friends together – some of you traveled miles, even halfway around the world to celebrate our couple tonight.

The table names echo just how much our couple’s love for each other defied distance and made “home” not just a place you can point to on a map or associate with a country code, but a reflection of them, their love for each other, and beginning tonight, right here, “home” is the reflection of their shared life.

Tonight, it’s about these two people who are willing – you can even say, brave enough – to take a chance in front of all the people they care about.  It’s incredibly inspiring.  It’s incredibly hopeful.

It just feels great to be a witness to that.

What I found to be most touching about this wedding was the presence of people from practically all over the world, a clear testament to just how much Sead and Mitzi are well-loved.  Families and loved ones came from different regions in the Philippines, Europe (Norway), and the United States.  Colleagues from Folsom in California, Singapore and from the Mitzi’s university and previous companies in the Philippines were well represented too.

It was noticeable that the couple assembled the people closest to their hearts to stand as their Principal Sponsors, Secondary Sponsors and members of the Entourage.  Clearly, people who hold the most influence to them from among family and the various stages of their lives – from student to accomplished professionals – were all accounted for and given the unique opportunity to help shape their young married life.

Among all these well-wishers, I waited in particular for the speeches from the Maid of Honor and the Best Man.  On a personal note, having known the Best Man Engr. Raoul M. Masangcay for years now, I marveled at hearing him speak in length and with such thoughtfulness for the first time.  He took a trip down memory lane, complimented the couple, and led everybody else in wishing the best of health and wealth for the newlyweds.  It was music to the ears.

And from the opening strains of “Seasons of Love (Theme from the Broadway musical RENT)”, lovingly interpreted by ANIMA Choir and Strings, it was clear that Sead and Mitzi’s union is a celebration of love, and that they will only allow it to be measured in terms of seasons of the same.

Congratulations and Best Wishes, Sead and Mitzi!

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Honor Guards lined the red carpet for Sead and Mitzi’s grand entrance, both at San Agustin and at La Castellana.

 

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I took this shot against the backdrop of the dinner buffet queue during the first break in the reception program. I later realized that I failed to take photos of the couple and the many guests on my own camera. Though we did manage to snap lots of shots with many other people’s DSLRs and iPhones.

 

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The very colorful and pretty dessert table. Beside it was a very retro touch – a chocolate fondue station!

 

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The guests were serenaded by the vocal stylings and top musicianship of the ANIMA Choir and Strings. That’s their manager Roger on his solo.

 

 

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The “strings” section of ANIMA Choir and Strings is composed of a percussionist, a flutist, a keyboardist and a violinist. The guys are awesome. They were only informed by Ann of my two songs a couple of days ahead, and we only had exactly one dry run less than an hour before the reception started. But I felt like they were able to take my voice where I wanted to while at the same time downplaying my vocal flaws. A–W–E–S–O–M–E. No wonder they’ve been a byword in the wedding industry.

 

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Doesn’t The Courtyard El jardin de la Luz transform into a place perfect for a romantic rendezvous at night time?

 

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i realize that I only managed to snap a shot of the couple during the bouquet and garter toss. Bummer! (I’m waiting to copy photos from my friend and colleague Engr. Aris’s DSLR.)

 

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This elicited a lot of cheers from the guests as they prodded Sead to go L–O–W–E–R! I couldn’t agree more with the Best Man in saying that our friend Mitzi was at her most radiant, most beautiful that evening.

 

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I don’t have all the photos to show for it, but I have to say that one thing that Sead and Mitzi’s wedding allowed was a veritable “reunion” of sorts among colleagues and friends from across the miles and seas. This one photo that survived the editing is of me and my good good G–O–O–D friend Adam from our company’s offices in Folsom, California. The last time that we bumped into each other was during business meetings in China. I was just so glad to see him at Sead and Mitzi’s wedding (Mitzi did tell me Adam was coming over). It was also nice to meet his girlfriend who he brought along.

 

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When it was already party time –WITH THE BAR OPENED WITH FREE-FLOWING WINE AND BEER!!! – another set of musicians took care of the sounds. This group is called, quite aptly, “Totally Mesmerized”. I loved their version of Gangnam Style that I found myself totally wanting to break into dance!

 

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That’s my cue card set which I made especially for Sead and Mitzi’s wedding. Notice that the first card is handwritten, as has always been my own “tradition”. I write my opening spiel only when I’m already at the venue of the reception. Some sort of belief that … “It will come to me!” Hahaha! Though I have to say that this time, I did end up using for the most part the cue card set provided by Beautiful Weddings. They have quite an amazing team – Ms. Ann, Mr, Jason, Ms, Kristine, Ms, Aya, and many others.

 

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I hope that Sead and Mitzi will forgive me for running away with my table’s name card – “Table no. 7: Shanghai”. I just simply loved it and thought it is the perfect souvenir. As you can see from the list, I shared the table with some of the most beautiful people.

 

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Cue cards and lyric sheets! As you can see, I prepared three songs (Hahaha!). I sang Filipino 70s band Hotdog’s “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko” (Sead took a liking to this song, among many Filipino hits)… and Lionel Richie’s “Truly”. As backup, I have Baron Barbers’ “I Will Always Stay In Love This Way”. This song was the first ever that a couple asked me to sing for them. So I always have it in my backpocket so to speak.

 

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The beautiful wedding invitation! This is a nice addition to my growing collection.

 

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The Principal Sponsors, Best Man, Maid of Honor, Groomsman, and Bridesmaid.

 

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Esteemed collegues, family, really close friends and their little kids played the other important roles.

 

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Before long, it was time to bid La Castellana – and the party – adieu!

 

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One last look at La Castellana before my family and I headed off to another historic part of town – ONGPIN (a.k.a. Chinatown)!

 

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Kuya is back!

30 01 2013
Chantilly Milazzo Panettone 03

The ribbon on the cake announces the provenance of this one–of–a–kind Christmas cake – Chantilly in Milazzo!

I SPENT the most of December 2012 bidding friends farewell.  One was punctuated with the gift of panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas cake.  This confection, made rich and fluffy with eggs and butter, has come to be a reminder not only of the most joyous of seasons, but also of a really good friend – Kuya Michele.

Today, I received another panettone.  And this one traveled all of about 10,275 kilometers to find its way to my hands.  It comes from Chantilly in Milazzo, which I first wrote about here.  (Visit their site at http://www.chantilly.sicilia.it/.)

And just like that, Kuya Michele is back.

Chantilly Milazzo Panettone 01

I don’t speak an iota of Italian but reading everything on the box is like music to my ears.

 

Paolo Michele eNTeNG

Paolo, Kuya Michele, and eNTeNG

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved