Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

PCasa GT, Burj Al Arab

In the time my husband and I have been together, we have moved to eight countries in four continents and now, after almost four years in Singapore, we are moving once again.  This time, it’s back to a place we lived for two years and a half in the early 2000s when our son was a few months old.

Dubai was already a bustling desert city then with the Burj Al Arab as its’ iconic super structure.  Today, numerous skyscrapers dot the skyline with the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa at 828 m), the world’s tallest hotel (the JW Marriott Marquis at 355m) and the world’s tallest residential building (the Princess Tower at 413m) all located in Dubai.  After several despedidas (farewell parties) and tearful goodbyes, we left Singapore yesterday and are now in our new home in Dubai.

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What better way to spend our first day back than to go back to the year-old Burj Al Arab Terrace – a 10,000 square meter structure painstakingly built in Finland and shipped to Dubai in its’ entirety to create a stunning restaurant, pool, beach and cabaña space abutting the hotel with uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf.

We began with lunch at Scape with it’s seafood-centric California fusion menu – a perfect on this sunny 39C day.  From the Crudo bar, we ordered two raw dishes: the Hamachi crudo with Ponzu, pistachio, olives and capers and the Corvina carpaccio with scallion, nori, ginger and truffle yuzu which we had with some salads; arugula, quinoa, pumpkin seed, Feta salad and the endive, grape, Gorgonzola, pecan as our starters.  We then shared the wild mushroom pizza with goat’s cheese and the Baja style tacos.  After our light and mostly cold lunch, we headed out to some sun loungers on the beach and enjoyed the cool saltwater infinity pool where I finally took the chance to take it easy and just relax after the hectic months of packing and moving.  It was warm but not unbearable and armed with 50 SPF Sun Bum,  my new Armani sunnies (which I got online from Smart Buy Glasses), and a stack of magazines, I happily spent the afternoon sitting in the shade catching up on my reading and just taking in the view. And what a view it was!  Happy to be home at last.

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The Terrace at the Burj Al Arab

Scape at the Burj Al Arab

 

 

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Healthy and delicious food is sometimes contradictory.  So many places promote wellness and health and actually don’t know how to make whole foods taste good.  Publicus in downtown Las Vegas is one of those places that gets healthy and delicious right.  Their daily changing specials and whatever they have on the counter (it could be a quinoa and roasted vegetable salad or an open faced toasted sourdough with cherry tomatoes cheese) is always fresh and flavorful.  It has become a regular weekend place for us in Vegas that when we do go, the manager already knows what the kids want to eat.  I’ve had a delicious spicy black rice and poached egg bowl with pickled ginger, a simple sourdough and avocado toast and filling brunch plates on the weekends.

Coffee is fantastic (none of those cappuccinos being served in gigantic cups that then makes the ratio of espresso and milk all wrong).  Plus, Publicus is a really nice place to hang out and get a bite or a coffee during the day, be surrounded by mostly locals and feel so far away from the lights, bling and tourists of the Strip.  When you’re done, head over to the newish Downtown Container Park – a complex of restaurants and shops made of colorfully painted shipping containers with a large playground deck in the middle for the kids to run around in.

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Publicus

1126 Fremont Street, Las Vegas Nevada 89101

Tel: +1 702 331 5500

Open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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On the rare occasions that I fly back home for a visit, I make sure to go to restaurants I haven’t been.  It’s so easy to go back to my favorites again and again but it’s also fun to eat  at the new restaurants that have opened up in Manila recently.

Wildflour actually isn’t new, they opened their first cafe and bakery in Bonifacio Global City in 2012.  It’s new to me though since I had heard so much about it but had never been.    I finally got my chance when my cool designer friend TC took me there for lunch.  I was so pleasantly surprised and impressed that I went there twice more in the short week that I was home.

What’s great about Wildflour is that aside from their massive selection of fresh-baked breads, pastries and cakes, they also have a full all-day dining menu serving breakfasts, soups, sandwiches, salads, pastas and a few main courses. (The menu might be different in each outlet, I have only bent the one in Legaspi Village) For lunch, I’ve had the moules frites and a chocolate tart.  The next time I went for breakfast and had the bagel and lox with a pot of filter coffee and another time, I stopped by for merienda (snack) of a sticky bun and a  latte.  I always think a place has made it when it becomes my go-to restaurant and Wildflour is just that – a cafe and bakery that is perfect for any time of the day.  You’ll know what I mean when you go.

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Wildflour Cafe + Bakery

L.P. Leviste Street, Salcedo Village, Makati
Phone:+63 2 808 7072
Hours: Monday to Saturday 7AM–10PM

Frabelle Business Center 111 Rada St, Legaspi Village, Makati
Phone:+63 2 833 9799
Hours: Monday to Saturday 7AM–10PM, Sunday 8AM–4PM

Ortigas The Podium, 12 ADB Avenue Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City
Phone:+63 2 571 8588
Hours: Daily 7AM–10PM

Ground floor, Net Lima building, 26th St, Taguig (Bonifacio Global City)
Phone:+63 2 856 7600
Hours: Monday to Saturday 7AM–10PM, Sunday 8AM-4PM

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PCasa GT Paris, Cafe Constant

It’s been raining almost every day for a week here in Singapore and the dark, dreary weather reminds me of Paris in the winter, without the cold of course.  This type of weather makes me feel like having hearty simple food that feeds the hunger and warms the body.  Flashback then to a simple dinner we had in Paris at Cafe Constant – the casual neighborhood bistro on rue Saint Dominique, a mostly residential area in the 7th arrondissement.  One of the restaurants owned by ex-Crillon chef Christian Constant and the most casual of the five.

Cafe Constant has a zinc-topped bar, mosaic floor, rickety wooden chairs and tables set elbow to elbow which makes for a typical Parisian dinner.  There’s a selection of wines by the glass, a blackboard prix-fixe and a separate la carte menu of bistro classics which are all reasonably-priced and served with a smile.  Convivial, cozy and delicious – the kind of place I wish we had here but seems to only work in Paris.

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Cafe Constant

139 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris

Tel: +33 1 47 53 73 54

No reservations.  Open daily for breakfast 7-11 a.m., non-stop service from 12h -23h

PCasa GT Paris, Mini Palais

For all the bistros and scuffed tiles in the numerous bistros and cafes in Paris, therehas been a proliferation of non-hotel restaurants still serving bistro classics but in much more sophisticated setting yet still offering prix-fixe menus.  One of these is the beautiful high-ceiling dining room of the Mini Palais, located in the back corner of the Grand Palais right smack in the middle of the famed triangle d’or (golden triangle) of the 8th arrondissement.  Helmed by chef Eric Frechon (from the 3-star Michelin Hotel Bristol), the food is faultless, the atmosphere refined, the service unobtrusive and the crowd more bourgeois than bohemian.

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Mini Palais

Grand Palais,  Avenue Winston Churchill  75008 Paris

Tel : +33 1 42 56 42 42

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On a cold rainy autumn evening in late November, we met up with friends for a drink at La Societe, St. Germain’s sleek Liaigre-designed Costes-managed bar, while we waited out our reservation at Jean Francois Piege’s year-old farm to table restaurant Clover.

Located in a back alley off boulevard St. Germain, where the Parisian brunch institution Coffee Parisien used to be, Clover is filled with several rustic wooden tables set with just a crisp white linen napkin and a knife.  The elongated space seats about 40 diners elbow-to-elbow making it feel like one large communal table.  The previous bar area has been transformed into a sleek modern open kitchen with a glass-fronted fridge filled with local produce.  At the time we went, there was a beautiful display of large succulent-like green savoy cabbages and tiny dark brussels sprouts.

Clover has a daily prix-fixe menu, for lunch ( three-course €35 or five-course €43) and a more elaborate one for dinner (five-course €60 or six-course  €73) with a supplement charge of €8 for a plate of cheese served before dessert.  The restaurant showcases produce from the all over France like special quail  from Dombes in the southeast or ratte potatoes from Touquet in the north.  Most ingredients indicate their origins and the cooking is simple but sophisticated.  The food is served family-style so dishes areplaced in the middle of the table and shared between two keeping it all very casual.

That evening, we started out with some St. Jean de Luz tuna, smoked butternut squash, crispy crackers and horseradish – an interesting mix of cold tuna tataki-style offset by the spicy horseradish and warm creamy squash.  Next up was the chef’s signature dish of Saint-Jacques cuite sur le pavé parisien – literally one large scallop in a half-shell placed on top of a sizzling hot Parisian cobblestone – a playful Parisian take on hot-stone cooking and gave the super sweet scallop just a tiny sear.  This was followed by cabbage, smoked herring foam, preserved lemon and chestnut chips which were the flavors of autumn on a plate – warm melted cabbage leaves with tangy bits of lemon rind and crispy chestnut chips for texture.  Main courses came next – the ladies had the fish which was a sautéed lieu jaune (pollock), topped with salsifis wildflower (goatsbeard), radicchio leaves and covered with an emulsion of bay leaves – the delicate white fleshed fish complemented by the bitter chicory and herb-infused foam while the gentlemen ordered the heartier roasted Dombes quail, trompettes de la mort (horn of plenty mushrooms), caramelized onions and mango vinegar.

We skipped the cheese course and went straight for dessert – chunks of dark chocolate fudge cake, milk chocolate ice cream, tiny sweet raspberries, cranberries and grilled pecans.  Espressos were ordered and the coffee shots were accompanied by a large gooey chocolate chip cookie which we all broke into and finished.  Dining at Clover is fine dining without the formality, like a fun meal with friends at their kitchen table sharing good food and wine.  In other words, Clover feels like home, except there’s a Michelin-starred chef who’s in charge of the kitchen.

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CLOVER

5, rue Perronet, 75007 Paris

Telephone: +33 1 7550 0005

Email:contact@clover-paris.com

Open Tuesday to Saturday

Lunch from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., Dinner from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.

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Panoramic view of Playa Mansa from the terrace.

Punta del Este is known for being the South America’s summer playground and aside from sun, sand and sea, there isn’t much to keep one occupied which is why it’s worth a visit to the Museo Taller Carlos Páez Vilaró

Carlos Páez Vilaró was an Uruguayan autodidact who grew up in Buenos Aires where his works of  graphic art began. He was later influenced by his many travels to Brazil and all over the African continent.  His numerous works include paintings, sculpture, mural art, ceramics, books and even music and he has left his mark in many works from Buenos Aires to Beijing, Cairo to Washington DC.

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He returned often to Uruguay and in 1969, he built his summer home by the sea in Punta del Este.  Casapueblo is found in Punta Ballena at the end of a winding road with expansive views of the sea.  This home was conceptualized with his own architectural design audit was here that he works to fill this all-white curvy stone house on a cliff with his final works of art, from the graphic tiles inlaid into the walls to the murals he painted on the terraces.  His sculptures are also scattered around the home along with his many ceramic creations.  He continued to live abroad – in Argentina, the United States and Brazil but eventually moved back to Punta del Este.  It was in this home that he spent rest of his days, painting and working until he died in February 2014 with Casapubelo becoming his final work of art.

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Museo – Taller de Casapueblo

Punta Ballena, Uruguay
C.P. 20003

Tel/Fax: +(598) 4257 8041

Tel/Fax: +(598) 4257 9121

Open to the public daily from 10 a.m. till sunset.

Entry fee for 12 years old and above Uruguayan $240